Local Headlines Archives for 2018-02

Wilton Police close bridge considered structurally deficient

Some bridges that the federal government considers structurally deficient will be closed because the state doesn't have enough money to maintain and repair them.  Wilton Police says on the recommendation of the state Department of Transportation, the Sugar Hollow Bridge has been closed until repairs can be completed.  The DOT says many of the bridges in Connecticut that are classified as structurally deficient are not considered unsafe for cars.  Earlier this year, more that $4 billion worth of transportation projects were postponed indefinitely because of funding issues.  32 structurally deficient bridges were among those projects.

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Ridgefield Police renew call for information about swastika graffiti incidents

Ridgefield Police are renewing their call for information on the person or persons connected to swastika graffiti incidents.  The Anti-Defamation League has offered a $2,000 reward for information that leads to an arrest.  Five swastikas were found in January painted on doorways and entry and exit signs at the Aldrich Museum and at the Masonic Lodge, next to Town Hall. 

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New Milford High School student charged for telling staff member they had a weapon

A New Milford High School student approached a staff member yesterday and said they had a weapon.  The School Resource Officer conducted an investigation.  New Milford Police determined that the student did not posess a weapon on school grounds nor did the student have access to the alleged weapon. The student was charged with Breach of Peace and was released to a parent.  The student is scheduled to appear in Juvenile Court March 12th.

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Pair arrested for larceny, assault at Newtown grocery store

Two Connecticut residents have been arrested for alleged shoplifting from a Newtown grocery store.  Newtown Police were called to Big Y yesterday on a report that a loss prevention officer was injured in the attempt. 

 

Police say 27-year-old Allison Napolitano of West Hartford tried to leave with cases of Redbull stuffed into an oversized purse.  The loss prevention officer was pushed from behind by 25-year-old Mitchell Caroll of Ridgefield. 

 

The loss prevention officer suffered abrasions to his wrist and what appeared to be a possible injury caused by a syringe. 

 

The pair fled in a car parked in the fire zone.  Nearby police agencies were notified.  State Police stopped a vehicle in Waterbury and detailed the couple.  Used syringes and paraphernalia consistent with IV Heroin use were found in the car. 

 

Both Caroll and Napolitano were charged with assault, larceny and robbery.  They were held on bond for a court appearance today. 

 

Napolitano was the suspect in several other larcenies from the store earlier this month.  She also has an outstanding warrant for her arrest in Redding on larceny charges.  Caroll is a convicted felon, out on parole for larceny. 

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Search during traffic stop turns up load gun, high capacity magazine

A man from Maine has been arrested in New York on weapons and drug charges.  State Police Troopers stopped a Jeep on I-84 in Southeast yesterday for vehicle and traffic infractions.  They could smell marijuana coming from the vehicle. 

 

Police determined that 25-year old Adam Sokoloski operated his vehicle while his ability was impaired by drugs.  A loaded .40 caliber Glock 23, a high capacity magazine, and over $3,500 in cash were found in the Jeep. 

 

Sokoloski was charged with Criminal Possession of a Weapon, of a fire arm and of a High Capacity Ammunition Clip.  He was arraigned and ordered held at Putnam County Jail on $20,000 bond.

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Newtown Youth and Family Services receives Flutie Foundation grant

Newtown Youth and Family Services has received a $5,290 grant from the Doug Flutie, Jr. Foundation for Autism to support Social Recreational Groups. NYSF officials say the goal of the social recreational groups is to promote individual growth, confidence, independence and flexibility and patience for children, teens and young adults with social skill challenges.  The programs allow children, teens and young adults who have autism spectrum disorders or other social difficulties the opportunity to engage in typical activities and recreational outings.  The Foundation awards grants annually through a competitive application and review process.  It was started in 1998 by former NFL quarterback Doug Flutie and his wife in honor of their son, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of three.  NYSF's next group session begins today. 

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New Milford, Bethel Police investigate car break ins, thefts

Over the past several days New Milford Police Officers have been responding to the area of Route 37 for reports of vehicles being broken into.  Police remind residents to lock vehicles and take out valuable items. They add that any suspicious activity should be reported to the New Milford Police Department.

 

Bethel Police are investigating reports of  vehicles being broken into and two stolen cars.  Police are reminding residents to not leave their keys in the car, to lock vehicles and to not keep valuables in cars.  Several Greater Danbury area towns have been grappling with car break ins and thefts.

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Sherman, New Milford partner with Julia's Wings Foundation

Sherman Volunteer Fire Department is participating in the Julia’s Wings Foundation 4th annual Operation Wear Red campaign to help raise awareness about aplastic anemia.  It's a rare and serious blood disorder in which bone marrow is not producing enough new blood cells. 

 

Julia’s Wings Foundation works to provide financial assistance to families of children with life threatening hematological diseases and to professionals for healthcare research.  February 25th through March 4th has been declared as Aplastic Anemia Awareness Week by the New Milford Town Council. 

 

The Foundation, named for a local girl who passed away in 2012 from complications of the  rare and serious blood disorder, noted that lights on the New Milford Green will be lit red for the week.  

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Local lawmaker discovers backlog of firearms transfers being entered in database

Kent state Representative Brian Ohler says there's a backlog of firearms transfers being entered into the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection database. 

 

He called the gravity of the situation immense.  During a work group with agency leaders yesterday, they they confirmed that about 21,500 transfers are outstanding.  Ohler says that's an increase from the 18,000 that was disclosed to his subcommittee on Friday. 

 

He notes that tens of thousands of law abiding gun owners in Connecticut could be carrying a legally owned firearm that may not be reflected in the database. 

 

Ohler says it's a safety issue for police officers and state troopers, especially when they conduct traffic stops or respond to domestic violence calls, because they run serial numbers of those firearms found or disclosed.  But he says a legally purchased or ownership transferred firearm in the last three or four months is not in the database.

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DOT staff make mistake in double scheduling Danbury hearings

Despite it being on the Danbury City calendar for days, a DOT information session on proposed rail fare hikes and service reductions was not held last night.  There was some confusion at the DOT over who was requesting meetings and when to set them.  A hearing on the proposals will be held March 5th with the Commissioner in attendance.  2nd District House candidate Raghib Allie-Brennan reached out to a DOT representative who scheduled the February informational meeting, while the current General Assembly delegation started planning the March gathering with the Commissioner's staff.

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Danbury merges Public Works, Engineer position

Danbury hasn't had an official city engineer for two years.  The role has been filled by Public Works Director Antonio Iadarola.  In the coming year's budget, the city engineer position will officially be combined with that of Public Works Director.  Iadarola is a licensed professional engineer.  Danbury has had a hiring freeze in place for several years and has been trying to streamline operations.

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Bethel Police Chief gets contract extension

Bethel Police Chief Jeff Finch has had his contract extended to April 2020.  Finch has been chief since 1997 and the contract renewal does not include an initial pay increase.  There is a possibility of a raise when the police union negotiates for rank-and-file officers.  His professional training stipend will increase to about $4,200.  Finch led the department through the national accreditation process and is currently overseeing construction of a new $13.5 million police station on Judd Avenue. 

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Bank robbery in Newtown prompts school lock-ins

A bank robbery in Newtown sent several nearby schools into lock-in mode yesterday.  Police responded to Union Savings Bank on Commerce Road around 1:45pm.  The suspect, later identified as 26-year old Kathlynn Achilles of Sandy Hook, passed a note to a teller instructing them to give her all the money. 

 

Officers located the suspect, who ran into the woods behind St. Rose School.  St. Rose, Newtown Middle School and Hawley Elementary School were placed into a precautionary lock-in. 

 

K9 Aris followed the suspect to Grand Place, were officers were waiting.  The suspect was found to be in possession of a small pocket knife.  Officers found a plastic bag nearby containing $2,700.  Achilles was charged with Robbery, Larceny, Threatening, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia and two counts of Possession of Narcotics. 

 

Achilles was held in lieu of bond for arraignment today.

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Man who illegally reentered U.S. fails to register as sex offender

A citizen of Ecuador has been sentenced to prison for reentering the U.S. after being deported.  38-year old Rodolfo Tepan, who was last living in Danbury, was sentenced yesterday to 19 months in prison.  In February 2016, Tepan was sentenced on a risk of injury charge in Danbury Superior Court, and ordered deported that October.  He illegally reentered the country and last May was arrested by Danbury Police for failing to register as a sex offender.  He was convicted and sentenced in July to 18 months in prison.  He pleaded guilty in November to reentry of a removed alien. 

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Pawling man arrested for domestic disturbance

A New York man has been arrested for a domestic dispute.  New York State Police responded to a Pawling home on Sunday and determined that 50-year old David Porter struck the victim in the face and caused injuries.  Porter was charged with assault, arraigned and ordered held on $1,000 bond.

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New Milford High School student charged for setting fires in bathroom

A New Milford High School student has been arrested for setting fires in a school bathroom Monday.  The fire was discovered shortly before noon yesterday and students were evacuated from the building.  The flames were put out with a fire extinguisher.  Another fire was also found.  Police say the juvenile suspect was charged with arson, criminal mischief, reckless endangerment and breach of peace.  The youth was released on a written promise to appear in juvenile court March 12.

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New Milford to start budget workshops

The New Milford Town Council and the Board of Finance are holding joint meetings, starting tonight, about the proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.  Additional workshops are scheduled for Wednesday and March 1st, 6th and 7th. 

 

Each gathering is slated for 7pm in New Milford Town Hall, and members will be taking public comment.  The budget is proposed at $101.9 million.  Each workshop will cover different parts of the budget. 

 

Tonight is about the probate court as well as the finance, registrars, tax collectors and tax assessor departments.  Tomorrow's is about the fire marshal, fire departments and the inlands wetlands department along with the schools. 

 

The March 1st gathering will cover the most areas of town government: health department, youth agency, town clerk, library, economic development, social services, the building department, parks and recreation and the mayor’s office.  March 6th is about funding for seniors, zoning, planning commission, ambulances and aquifer protection.  The last workshop covers the police department, non-profits, the sewer commission, commission on the arts, the film commission, farmland preservation and the Candlewood Lake Authority.

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Stop School Violence Act to be raised in U.S. Senate today

A bill that's already been introduced in the U.S. House will be raised in the Senate today.  The Stop School Violence Act funds schools to train staff and students on prevention and recognizing the signs of potential violence or suicide. 

 

Sandy Hook Promise co-founder Mark Barden discussed the initiative with the President during a roundtable discussion at the White House last week. 

 

The measure invests $50 million in federal funding each year to train school personnel, local law enforcement, and students to identify warning signs and intervene.  It will also help implement anonymous reporting systems for threats of school violence and enable better coordination between schools and local law enforcement.

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Police ID man killed in I-84 car crash

New York State Police have identified the person who was killed in a car crash in Brewster last week.  The driver was identified as 63-year old Donovan Grant, of Queens.  An initial investigation has found that a Jeep on the I-84 eastbound entrance ramp from 684-northbound left the roadway Wednesday afternoon.  The car travelled across all lanes of travel, the center median and went into the westbound lanes, hitting a tractor trailer.  

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Newtown man, found with drugs, threatened victim with gun

A Newtown man has been arrested on a weapons charge and other crimes.  Newtown Police responded to a Buttonball Drive home on Thursday on a report of a physical domestic disturbance, involving the threatened use of a firearm. 

 

Both the adult victim and 32-year old Patrick Laughlin sustained minor injuries, but refused medical attention.  Police recovered a loaded shotgun and large amounts of cocaine and marijuana. 

 

Laughlin was charged with disorderly conduct, threatening, two counts of drug possession with intent to sell and having a loaded shotgun an a motor vehicle.  He was released on bond and arraigned.

 

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NY man arrested for promoting prostitution

A New York man has been arrested on prostitution and drug charges.  Putnam County Sheriff's Deputies made a traffic stop in Mahopac on the 16th and determined that the driver, 42-year old Leonardo Martinez of Elmhurst, didn't have a valid driver's license. 

 

Two women, ages 23 and 28, were in the car and Deputies determined that he solicited a number of people  from Westchester and Putnam Counties to engage in sexual conduct with the two females in exchange for money.  He was found with cocaine in his possession during the traffic stop. 

 

Martinez was arraigned and ordered held on bond.  The investigation is on-going.

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Connecticut students working to organize national walkout

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A trio of Connecticut high schoolers, led by a 15-year-old student who was inspired to act after the recent Florida school shooting, is working to organize a national school walkout to demand an end to gun violence.

The effort began last week with an online petition started by Lane Murdock, a sophomore at Ridgefield High School. She then enlisted the help of two seniors, partners on the school's debate team, to help coordinate students from across the country to protest on April 20, the 19th anniversary of the shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.

The three took their newfound mission to the state Capitol on Friday, appearing side-by-side with the state's Democratic congressional delegation and Mark Barden, a father whose son was killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting.

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Music icon Marian Anderson to be celebrated in her hometown

DANBURY, Conn. (AP) - The late music icon Marian Anderson will be celebrated in her Connecticut hometown on the 121st anniversary of her birth.

Western Connecticut State University in Danbury has scheduled the community gathering for Tuesday.

The opera singer is credited with breaking down barriers for blacks in the arts and galvanizing the fledging civil rights movement with a 1939 concert at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

First lady Eleanor Roosevelt arranged for the concert after Anderson wasn't allowed to perform at another Washington venue.

Anderson became the first black artist to perform at the White House in 1936 and the first African-American to perform at the Metropolitan Opera.

Anderson lived in Danbury for nearly 50 years. She died in 1993 at age 96.

 

The event is at 6pm in the Veronica Hagman Concert Hall of the Visual and Performing Arts Center on the university's Westside campus. Guests are invited to attend a community birthday party celebration for Anderson and learn how they may become a part of the initiative to name the School of Visual and Performing Arts in her honor. Tickets are $35 and are available at www.wcsu.edu/svpa/mariananderson.

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General Mills buying Blue Buffalo Pet Products in $8B deal

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - General Mills is buying Blue Buffalo Pet Products Inc. in a deal valued at about $8 billion.

General Mills Inc. will pay $40 per Blue Buffalo share. That's a 17 percent premium to the pet food company's Thursday closing price of $34.12.

Shares of Blue Buffalo surged more than 5 percent in Friday premarket trading.

Blue Buffalo makes natural foods and treats for dogs and cats. Its Blue brand had approximately $1.28 billion in net sales in fiscal 2017.

Minneapolis-based General Mills said once the transaction closes, Blue Buffalo will be run as a new pet operating segment.

Blue Buffalo is expected to keep its Wilton, Connecticut headquarters.

The deal is targeted to close by the end of General Mills' fiscal year 2018.

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Open house being held to welcome new library director in Newtown

An open house is being held in Newtown for residents to meet the new director of CH Booth Library.  Director Douglas Lord will be welcomed to the Newtown Community during the event on the second floor of the library Sunday from 2 to 4pm.  The snow date is March 4th.

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Bethel food drive wrapping up Monday

A food drive for the Bethel Community Food Pantry is winding down on Monday.  The non-profit, community-based, fully volunteer-run food pantry in downtown Bethel provides free food and hygiene items to residents in need year around.  The facility offers items not covered by food stamps, such as toilet paper, shampoo, deodorant and laundry detergent.  Boxes are located at town hall and the library for food donations.

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Aquarion seeks nominations for Environmental Champion Awards

Aquarion Water Company is accepting submission for grant awards to adults, students, businesses, and non-profits whose volunteer efforts have protected or improved Connecticut's natural resources.  This is the 8th year Environmental Champion Awards will be presented.  The deadline for nominations is May 1st.

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Brookfield firefighters extinguish kitchen blaze

A stove fire was reported yesterday in Brookfield in a row of attached townhouses.  Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company responded to Pondview Trail and called in mutual aid.  Firefighters encountered heavy fire conditions in the kitchen and dining room area and were on the scene for about two hours.  There were no injuries. The cause of the fire is under investigation.  The Stony Hill Volunteer Fire Company, Water Witch Hose Co. #2 of New Milford, and the Hawleyville Volunteer Fire Company #1 provided assistance. 

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New Milford Police investigating evading responsibility crash

The New Milford Police Department is investigating an evading responsibility crash that happened earlier this month on Aspetuck Ridge Road.  A driver headed south near Sand Road on February 7th, around 3:15pm, collided with the concrete bridge.  There was light snow falling at the time and the road was snow covered.  The car eventually collided with a wooden fence.  The female driver of the dark colored, small SUV got out and retrieve the scattered vehicle parts.  New Milford Police are asking that anyone who can identify the vehicle or suspect to contact them at 860-355-3133. 

 

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New Milford Superintendent sends update to parents on threat found at NMHS

Three police officers walked the hallways at New Milford High School on Wednesday, joining safety monitors and the administration, after a threat was found written on a bathroom wall.  The investigation into the threat is still ongoing, but Superintendent Joshua Smith says students of interest have been identified and leads are being pursued.  Police do not feel that the threat is viable, but they are taking it seriously as a precaution. 

 

Smith says guidance counselors are available to speak with any students who are concerned or need help coping with any fears or anxiety the current climate has fostered. 

 

Smith sent out an updated letter to parents yesterday after he says misinformation was spread on social media about an incident in nearby Dover, New York.  He says the written threat found on a bathroom wall this week was in no way connected to that in Dover. 

 

On Tuesday evening, New York State Police and the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office began receiving calls concerning a Snapchat posting that stated “…I heard they are suppose to shoot up both dover and new milford high school tomorrow at 12” It was posted by a 16-year-old Dover High School student, who New York State Police say had no malicious intent. New York State Police determined there is no known credible threat concerning any schools in the Dover Union Free School District.  

 

There was also a reference to an incident at "SMS," according to Smith.  But he says it was Southern Middle School in Southern York County Pennsylvania, not Schaghticoke Middle School.  Smith encourage students to speak to an adult if they hear anything, and to challenge their peers on threatening language. 

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FuelCell Energy official critical of DEEP project selections

A Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology Forum has been held by state lawmakers.  One of the speakers on alternate energy was from Danbury-based FuelCell Energy.  Senior VP and General Counsel Jennifer Arasimowicz testified in support of the industry. 

 

The company has 450 employees and exports their product to three continents.  While their headquartered in Danbury, they also have a manufacturing facility in Torrington.  FuelCell Energy's supply chain includes companies in 97 Connecticut towns.  In the last three years, she says the company has spent more than $75 million with those businesses. 

 

Arasimowicz says the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has awarded no bids for fuel cell projects when looking for alternate energy sources.  She notes that the four projects FuelCell bid would have paid $42 million in state and local taxes.  Unlike solar and wind, she notes fuel cells are not sales tax exempt.  She added that the projects would have supported 322 direct jobs and 106 indirect jobs. 

 

FuelCell Energy opted to expand in Connecticut, growing their manufacturing facility.  Arasimowicz says a critical factor was the supportive energy policy environment, but that doesn't match DEEP action.

 

Greater than 75-percent of the megawatts in the selected projects are located outside of Connecticut.  She says that's more than $1.5 billion of out-of-state investment by Connecticut ratepayers to purchase energy that will never flow into Connecticut.  Arasimowicz called it a massive lost opportunity for jobs, taxes and grid resiliency.

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Former Meriden Mayor to run for 5th Congressional District seat

A former Mayor of Meriden has announced his candidacy for the 5th Congressional District.  Manny Santos declared his intent at Danbury City Hall yesterday.  Santos served one term as mayor of Meriden, the first Republican in the role there since 1983.  Democratic incumbent Elizabeth Esty is also being challenged by Republican Craig Diangelo of New Britain.  Esty has raised the most campaign funding among the state delegation in a district which has flipped between parties several times.  Esty was first elected in 2012.

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Members of Congress meet with RHS student planning national school walkout

As Congress prepares to return to Washington next week, Senators Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal along with Representatives Elizabeth Esty and Rosa DeLauro are hoping their colleagues will take action to protect schools from gun violence.  The 4 are meeting today with Ridgefield High School sophomore Lane Murdock, who helped start the National School Walkout movement, and Sandy Hook Promise Founder Mark Barden, whose son Daniel was killed on 12-14. 

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Outgoing Region 12 Superintendent to lead New Fairfield school district

New Fairfield's next school Superintendent will be retiring Region 12 Superintendent Pat Cosentino, replacing Alicia Roy whose contract expires June 30th.  Cosentino's term at Region 12 ends the same day and she'll started in New Fairfield on July 1st.  Cosentino served as principal of Bethel High School for six years and previously taught in New York.  Outgoing Superintendent Roy has faced criticism over the last two years over a perceived lack of communication in the district.

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Newtown lawmaker calls for searchable animal abuser database

Newtown State Representative Mitch Bolinsky is part of the legislature's Animal Welfare Caucus.  He says there's evidence that people who commit violence acts on animals today are most likely to become abusers of women and children tomorrow.   He called the cruelty a red flag that could prevent abuse and violent crime.  Bolinsky called for a searchable registry of those found guilty of animal abuse.

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Eversource to conduct aerial inspections of equipment

Eversource Energy is currently conducting aerial inspections of high-voltage electrical equipment on rights of way throughout Connecticut. The semiannual inspection is an effort to prevent outages before they happen.  The work involves the use of a low-flying helicopter equipped with heat-sensing, infrared scanning technology which can detect potential equipment issues.  The aerial inspections will continue through February 28th. Weather permitting; flights will take place from 8am and 4pm.  Utility rights of way will be inspected in Bethel, Bethlehem, Brookfield, Danbury, Monroe, New Milford, Newtown, Redding, Ridgefield, Roxbury, Washington, Wilton, and Woodbury.  The blue and silver helicopter has tail # N1431W.

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Threat found written on wall at New Milford High School

A threat was found written on a bathroom wall at New Milford High School yesterday morning.  Superintendent Joshua Smith said in a letter to parents that school administrators and police are investigating the situation .  Police did determine yesterday that the nature of the threat did not pose an immediate danger to students, which is why the school day was not altered.  Smith said they take student safety very seriously so an increased Police presence was in effect at New Milford High School during the investigation.  There will be an increased presence through at least today.  Smith noted that the additional Police support at all schools will continue. 

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NY Police investigate fatal I-84 crash

There was a fatal accident on I-84 in Brewster yesterday.  New York State Police Troopers are investigating the motor vehicle crash on Interstate 84 westbound east of exit 20, the ramp for 684.  It happened around 3:30pm.  Police did not disclose how many cars were involved.  The entire westbound side was closed for some time, while one lane was closed for 4 hours.  Any witness or person with information about the crash is asked to call Troop K Headquarters at (845) 677-7300.

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Danbury gets $100,000 as finalist in Bloomberg Philanthropies challenge

Danbury is one 35 finalists in the Bloomberg Philanthropies 2018 U.S. Mayors Challenge.  There were 320 applicantsin the a nationwide competition that encourages city leaders to uncover bold, inventive ideas that confront the toughest problems cities face. Danbury is looking for a solution to the lack of affordable childcare options for low-income families.  The United Way of Western Connecticut says nearly 1,000 children attend unlicensed daycare facilities, because their parents have no other affordable alternative.  Danbury will start a six-month testing phase of prototypes with grant funding of $100,000.

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Newtown Police investigating medical waste dumping

Newtown Police are trying to figure out who has been dumping medical waste on the side of the road.  Complaints have been filed about the waste on Plumtrees Road in the area of Taunton Hill Road, near the Bethel town line.  The littering has been taking place over the past year, on at least 7 separate occasions.  While the waste has been dumped by one home, Newtown Police say it does not appear that the complainant is a target.

 

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Newtown man arrested twice in one day due in court

A Newtown man who was arrested twice in one day is due in court today.  24-year old David Cortina was charged by State police in the early morning hours of January 28th for a highway car crash.  He was arrested about an hour later by Newtown Police for a domestic disturbance. 

 

Cortina allegedly drifted into an SUV on I-84 by exit 9.  He was cited for failure to maintain the proper lane and taken to the hospital for evaluation. 

 

Newtown Police responded to a local home and charge Cortina with driving under the influence, evading responsibility, and violation of a protective order.  He was arraigned and pleaded not guilty to the charges. 

 

Cortina was being held after the court did not set bond.  He was previously arrested by newtown Police January 24th on charges of DUI and possession of marijuana.  He had been released on bond on those charges, but then was arrested a few days later.

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New Milford Mayor proposes $101.8 million budget

New Milford Mayor Pete Bass has started making staff reductions he announced last week in response to state budget cuts.  The assistant police chief, the assistant director of Parks and Recreation and the Public Works project manager have been laid off.  Bass says they received six weeks of severance and health insurance until April 30th, more than legally required.  He says the decisions were not made lightly, but were necessary to not put the entire burden on taxpayers.   

 

There was a bit of a controversy over whether the laying off the Assistant Parks and Rec Director was legal or not.  According to the town charter, the Commission gets to vote on employee terminations, but Mayor Pete Bass does have the discretion to lay off employees.  The Parks and Rec Commission is looking into what cost-cutting measures can be taken to save enough money to keep the position. 

 

Bass is proposing a $101.8 million budget, with a decrease of about $8,600 on the town side and an increase of about $868,000 for the schools.  But the school funding is about $600,000 less than the increase the Board of Education is calling for. 

 

New Milford is facing projected revenue declines in Building Department permit fees and Parks and Recreation program and park fees.  Bass says there's a $50,000 reduction included in his budget for the Commission on Aging to fix what he says is a transportation grant that was double counted. 

 

The New Milford budget includes $55,000 for a grant writer.  Bass says the employee will be in charge of eliminating a deficiencies in the most recent Audit, with a focus on obtaining new grants to increase revenues.

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Danbury to celebrate Chinese New Year this weekend

Danbury High School is hosting a 2018 Chinese New Year celebration on Saturday.  The event is also hosted by Westside Middle School Academy and the Western Connecticut Chinese Association, along with Huaxia CT Chinese School.  The event is from 2 to 3pm with performances scheduled from 3 to 5pm.  Performances include folk dances, traditional instruments, and Chinese calligraphy, among others.

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Brewster man arrested twice during NY State Police holiday weekend DWI crackdown

A Brewster man was arrested twice in three days by New York State Police.  32-year old Alfred Dajanaj was stopped on Saturday on Route 22 in Southeast for a traffic law violation.  He was also stopped on Monday in the same area.  Investigations revealed that he was impaired by alcohol both days and was arrested. 

 

New  York State Police in the Putnam and Westchester areas removed two dozen drunk drivers from the roadway during the Presidents' Day holiday weekend. 

 

Among those stopped for traffic violations and determined to be impaired on Saturday was 31-year old John Taveras Espinal of Danbury.  He was stopped on Route 6 in Southeast.  

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Trump says more must be done to protect children

WASHINGTON (AP) President Donald Trump is declaring that more must be done to protect America's children.


With a Florida community grieving over the latest school shooting, Trump is directing the Justice Department to ban devices like the rapid-fire bump stocks used in last year's Las Vegas massacre.

On Wednesday afternoon, Trump is hosting parents, teachers and students for a ``listening session'' that will include people impacted by the mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, and the shootings in Columbine, Colorado, and Newtown.

 

In a tweet Tuesday night, Trump indicated he wants to strengthen the background check system, but offered no specifics.

 

Sen. Chris Murphy said Trump's directive on bump stocks suggested the president was aware of fresh energy on the issue and called it a sign that "for the first time" politicians are "scared of the political consequences of inaction on guns."

A bipartisan legislative effort to ban bump stocks last year fizzled out. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives announced in December that it was reviewing whether weapons using bump stocks should be considered illegal machine guns under federal law.

 

The federal background check bill was developed in response to a mass shooting last November in which a gunman slaughtered more than two dozen people at a Texas church. It would penalize federal agencies that don't properly report required records and reward states that comply by providing them with federal grant preferences. The measure, which is pending in the Senate, was drafted after the Air Force acknowledged that it failed to report the Texas gunman's domestic violence conviction to the National Criminal Information Center database.

The GOP-controlled House paired the background checks bill with a measure making it easier for gun owners to legally carry concealed weapons across state lines. The concealed carry measure would allow gun owners with a state-issued concealed-carry permit to carry a handgun in any state that allows concealed weapons.

Murphy said any attempt to combine background checks with concealed-carry provisions would significantly jeopardize the chances of passing bipartisan reform of the background checks system.

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Patterson man arrested for sexually abusing a child

A Patterson man has been arrested for sexually abusing a child.  New York State Police launched an investigation in August of reported abuse by 61-year old Anthony Marino of a child under age 13. 

 

An investigation determined that Marino engaged in sexual conduct with a child multiple times.  He was arraigned and ordered held on $50,000 bond. 

 

Marino was charged with sexual conduct with a child, sexual misconduct, forcible touching and endangering the welfare of a child.

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Danbury motorcyclist arrested for leading police on high-speed highway chase

A Danbury man has been arrested after leading state police on a highway chase that topped 100 miles an hour yesterday afternoon.  A Trooper by exit 6 on I-84 westbound observed a motorcycle travelling 85 miles an hour, and began to follow with lights and sirens activated.  The driver, later determined to be 29-year old Gary Lessard, sped to over 105 miles an hour.  State Police say the trooper stopped the chase when Lessard started driving in the right shoulder.  A DMV search of the plate led to Lessard at his work place.  He was charged with reckless driving, engaging in a police pursuit, passing on the right and operating without a motorcycle endorsed license.  He was held on bond.

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NY man blocking neighbor's driveway arrested on drug related charges

A New York man has been arrested on drug related charges after a neighbor complaint that he was blocking a Patterson driveway.  New York State Police responded to Haviland Drive on Sunday and spoke with the vehicle owner, 24-year old Austin Hayes.  Illegal drugs and drug paraphernalia were seen in the car.  The Patterson man was in possession of over 4 pounds of marijuana, 2.5 grams of cannabis and more than $1,100 in cash.  Hayes was arraigned and order held on bond.  He was charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell, possession of marijuana, criminal possession of a controlled substance and two counts of Criminal Use of Drug Paraphernalia.

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Danbury woman accused of hiding drugs in 'private area'

A Danbury woman has been arrested for hiding drugs in a private area.  Wilton Police stopped a car on Valentine's Day for traffic violations.  The driver, a 32-year old Norwalk man, was determined to be under the influence.  Wilton Police said yesterday that officer saw his passenger hide something under her leg during the traffic stop.  Police found 28-year old Shaina Piermattei hiding 3 wax folds and a cut straw with heroin residue on it.  At the Police station, it was determined that Piermattei was concealing 11 more folds of heroin in a “private area,” according to police.  She was charged with tampering with evidence, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia. Piermattei is due in court on the 27th.

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Bethel Board of Ed present budget to town officials for consideration

The Bethel Board of Education has approved a budget proposal from the Superintendent without changes.  The proposed $4.2 million budget is a 1.9 percent increase over the current year.  Most of the increase is for contractual obligations.  Despite growing enrollment, the budget does call for cutting 2.5 full time positions.  Funding for an English language learners teacher and a preschool teacher is included.  The Board of Ed will present the proposal to the Boards of Selectmen and Finance Wednesday at 6:30pm during a joint meeting in the municipal center. 

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Region 12 opens online survey in Superintendent search

The Region 12 Board of Education has begun its search for the next Superintendent of Schools.  Residents in Bridgewater, Roxbury and Washington are being called on to give their opinion on what are the needed characteristics and attributes of a successful district leader.  An online survey has been posted and is available until March 22nd.  The search is being led by consultant, Dr. Joseph Erardi, the former Newtown school superintendent.

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Monroe state Representative to seek reelection

State Representative JP Sredzinski plans to seek a third term in November.  The 112th district includes part of Newtown and all of Monroe.  He is currently ranking member of the Public Safety & Security Committee, and a member of the Appropriations and the Energy & Technology Committees.  Sredzinski, a Public Safety Dispatch Supervisor, is a a charter member of the recently formed Fire/EMS Caucus.

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Bethel Fire & EMS testing out new equipment

Bethel Fire and EMS have released their report on calls for service from January.  There were a total of 43 calls for the fire department, including 6 for assistance at car accidents.  There was one electrical fire, 1 kitchen fire, 1 animal rescue and 1 call about broken pipes.  Bethel firefighters responded to 8 automatic alarms, 4 calls to investigate the smell of smoke and 4 about carbon monoxide or a gas leak. 

 

There were a total of 144 EMS calls in January. 

 

Bethel Fire and EMS is testing out some new equipment options to find the so-called bail out kit that best fits the department needs.  Assistant Chief Brendan Ryan wrote on Facebook that the gear is critical to overall safety, but something they hope never to need.  The bailout kit is a harness-like device that can help a firefighter safely evacuate a building in low visibility, high heat situations.  Flash Fire industries recently brought a two story training prop to the Bethel Fire Department for members to try out two different systems. 

 

The gear became mandatory in all New York State departments after an FDNY member was trapped in an illegally altered apartment and forced out a window, falling over 40 feet to the pavement below.

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Newtown Police Commission seeks speed limit reduction on parts of two state roads

The state Department of Transportation is bing asked by the Newtown Police Commission to reduce posted speed limits along part of Mt Pleasant Road. 

 

The posted limit is 45 miles an hour, and the Newtown Bee reports that the Commission wants it to be 40 miles an hour between the Bethel town line and the intersection with Blackman Road.  The two miles technically are Routes 6 and 25. 

 

The same reduction is being sought for South Main Street between the intersection with Pecks Lane and the bridge crossing the Pootatuck River, about half a mile. 

 

The Bee reports that over the last three years there were at least 30 accidents on each section of road.

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Easton Police K9 celebrates birthday, gets emergency medical bag donation

Easton Police K9 TJ has celebrated his 2nd birthday.  Officer Tamra French received an emergency medical bag from the Connecticut Emergency Animal Response Service, to be able to provide a 24 hour, rapid response to disaster, medical, accident and other incidents that impact animals throughout the state.

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Family pet died in fire at historic Bethel home

Two people escaped a house fire in Bethel yesterday morning, but a family pet died.  Firefighters responded to an historic home on Judd Avenue shortly before 9am.  The fire started in the basement and firefighters were able to contain the flames to that area.  There was extensive smoke damage to the rest of the 1845 house. 

 

One resident was taken to the hospital for evaluation.  One cat was rescued by firefighters, but did not respond to mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.  Another cat escaped on its own.  

 

Mutual aid was provided by Newtown, Brookfield and Danbury fire departments.  The cause of the fire is under investigation by Bethel Emergency Management & Fire Marshal.

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Putnam County officials tout School Resource Officer program

The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office is reaffirming its commitment to the School Resource Officer Program in response to last week's Florida high school shooting.  Sheriff Robert Langley says they continue to work with the County Executive and the Legislators to maintain the position of the Sheriff’s Office. 

 

He says the resource officers are an instrumental asset to the community and provide a direct connection between the children and staff in Putnam County schools and law enforcement.  Langley reminded parents, staff and other adults to not dismiss what children and others are saying, no matter how insignificant it may seem. 

 

The School Resource Officer program has been in Putnam County schools since 1996. 

 

The county and the individual school districts share the cost of respective officer. The Brewster School District has three officers; one the district is completely financially responsible for. 

 

Carmel School Superintendent Andy Irving is a proponent of the program.  He says there is no single development in school safety and security that has had a greater impact than the SRO program, with benefits that go beyond school security.  The uniformed certified law enforcement officer, assigned full time to a school, works as an educator, law enforcer and counselor. 

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Esty seeks to expand VA peer counselor program for female veterans

Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty has introduced a bill to equip the Department of Veterans Affairs Peer Support Program with an adequate amount of peer counselors to help address the mental health needs of female veterans. 

 

A 2016 VA report on mental health found that the "risk for suicide was 2.5 times higher among female veterans when compared with U-S civilian adult women.  The agency also determined that female veterans who experienced military sexual trauma, who have mental health conditions, or are at risk of becoming homeless face numerous barriers in seeking and accessing assistance, including through VA. 

 

The Program currently employs more than 1,000 peer counselors in VA health care facilities and Community Based Outpatient Clinics around the country.  They are trained to help veterans manage and overcome mental health conditions, substance use disorders, homelessness, and other challenges.

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State Bond Commission approves money for WCSU, Danbury line of Metro North

The state Bond Commission has met to approved funding, some for road repair and maintenance.  There was also $6 million approved for improvements to Western, Central, Eastern, and Southern Connecticut State University buildings.  The work includes restoration of academic facilities, upgrading safety systems and other ground improvements.

 

$15 million in bond money was also approved for construction of a new dock yard for the Danbury Branch Line in Norwalk.  Other funding will be used for make ADA improvements at judicial branch facilities across the state.  There was also bond money approved for brownfield remediation, upgrades for Department of Veteran Affairs properties and for housing programs to combat homelessness.

 

Governor Malloy defended approval of $10 million to a provide a grant-in-aid to Hartford for improvements at Dillon Stadium and Colt Park.  He says the funding is subject to Hartford approving an agreement to license the stadium to a professional sports team.

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New Milford Mayor plans staffing reductions to deal with state budget cuts

Faced with drastic revenue cuts from the state, New Milford Mayor Pete Bass has announced a staffing reduction.  He is also cutting additional expenses in an effort to address the $700,000 shortfall this fiscal year.  If no action was taken, Bass says he would have had to budget for a more than 10-percent tax increase. 

 

The staffing reduction will be made through a mix of cutting existing positions, not filling vacancies and denying requested additional positions for the coming budget year.  Bass says New Milford is facing a more than $3 million projected revenue decline next fiscal year, the equivalent of the four largest taxpayers leaving New Milford. 

 

Bass is planning to meet with the Board of Education about how to address a reduction in educational cost sharing funding from the state.  He says that, coupled with substantially increased healthcare costs, have driven the need to look at structural changes. 

 

He says the Board is working to find savings and efficiencies that do not impact the quality of the education. 

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Connecticut may limit access to state's voter database

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) Marketing companies and other private entities may no longer be able to purchase Connecticut's voter list.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill has proposed limiting access to the database to political parties, candidates, journalists, researchers and governmental agencies. She also wants to prevent full birth dates of voters from being released.

The Democrat, who is up for re-election this year, says she's motivated by the thousands of voters who contacted her office with privacy concerns after a now-disbanded presidential commission sought reams of data.

Republican secretary of the state candidate Susan Chapman, of New Fairfield, likes protecting the file, but questions why Merrill didn't do this earlier.

The executive director of the election advocacy group Common Cause calls Merrill's proposal troubling, noting how much of the information is already available on the internet.

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Funding for basketball courts in Danbury could be in jeopardy

Assuming funding will be available , Danbury officials are looking into sites for new basketball courts.  But the City has had to absorb several million dollars worth of cuts from the state in the current year's budget so it's questionable if the funding will be available.  Even though the money was budgeted for in Danbury, Mayor Mark Boughton says he will have to balance the City's need.  If more classrooms are needed, he says that would take priority over basketball courts.

 

Officials did checked out a site in the Rogers Park area, but Boughton says they're still uncertain about locations because of two reasons. 

 

One is that while they want 12 to 18 year olds to be able to have access, inevitably 18 to 25 year olds will take over and won't let the younger kids play.  The other problem is that some youth don't want to play there if supervision is provided to even out playing time.

 

Boughton says they're still searching for a place that's centrally located, and visible from the roadway.

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Local state of emergency ended in Kent after ice jam, flooding

The local state of Emergency has been lifted in Kent.  The ice jam on the Housatonic has moved out of town.  The Incident Public Information Officer, state Representative Brian Ohler, says the temperatures over the past week and a half, combined with some moderate precipitation, have allowed the river water to soften and loosen the ice jam. 

 

The State of Emergency was in place for a total of 33 days. 

 

Ohler says the size of the ice jam and the length of time that it decided to take up residency in Kent was out of the norm, but the way it melted was the scenario Incident Managers and Meteorologists were hoping for. 

 

He notes that there were no injuries or fatalities to report.  A few families are receiving assistance for damages to their homes due to the ice jam and the subsequent flooding.

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Storm causes power outages, road closures and accidents

More than a thousand power outages were reported in Danbury over the weekend.  Firefighters responded to Lake and Well Avenues on a report of a downed tree, which also took down utility wires.  The roads were closed while crews removed the tree and fixed the electric lines.  

 

There was a roll over accident in Danbury around 10:30 Sunday morning.  One lane on Clapboard Ridge Road near Ledgemere Drive was closed as crews cleared the car.  A person in the vehicle was injured and transported to the hospital. 

 

In Ridgefield, two people were injured in a three car crash on Route 7.  The accident happened between New Road and Cains Hill Road and closed Route 7 for about an hour. 

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Local lawmaker discusses campaign financing law changes

An Informational Forum has been held on the Connecticut Citizens' Election Program.  Danbury Senator Mike McLachlan is co-chair of the Government Administration and Elections Committee, which took testimony about changes to the program. 

 

The voluntary system of publicly financing campaigns was created in 2005, in response to the corruption scandal that forced John Rowland to resign as Governor. 

 

Participants can accept individual donations of no more than $100, most from their district, and meet fundraising thresholds.  They are then awarded grants.  The budget adopted in October includes a provision that mandates complaints unresolved by the State Elections Enforcement Commission in a year be dismissed.  But there's been a 40 percent reduction in SEEC staff over the years.  It also raised the limit on qualifying contributions to $250.  

 

There were some concerns raised about the U.S. Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, which threw out prohibitions on independent expenditures by corporations and unions.  McLachlan objected to provisions adopted in 2013 that allowed the state parties to make unlimited expenditures on Connecticut legislative races.  There had been a limit of $10,000.  He says a candidate's friends or family could be directed to give thousands of dollars through the state parties.

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Danbury Board of Ed looks to make funding case to City officials

A budget workshop meeting is being held in Danbury Wednesday night. 

 

The Board of Education hopes to present to City officials their arguments for a proposed $135 dollar budget.  The 5.5 percent increase is about $7 million.  In the recent past, the City Council and the Mayor have only granted a portion of what Board of Ed members has requested.  Mayor Mark Boughton is expected to release his budget for the coming fiscal year in April.  

 

School officials say smaller-than-requested increases have not kept pace with enrollment and cuts in state funding.  Danbury is last in per-pupil funding of the state's 169 cities and towns. 

 

The workshop Wednesday is at 6pm at the administrative offices on Beaver Brook Road. 

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Danbury delcares snow emergency

Danbury has declared a Level 1 Snow Emergency ahead of tonight's storm.  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.  Residents are also required to shovel in front of their homes after the storm.

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Three injured when truck crashes into house

A pick up truck crashed into a Danbury house early this morning,sending three people to the hospital.  Firefighters responded to West Wooster Street at Garfield Avenue shortly before 4am.  A Ford pickup truck careened into a house injuring the driver and two occupants.  Fire Department officials say all injuries appeared to be minor.  The Red Cross was requested to assist the remaining occupants due to the damage.

 

 

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Bethel High School marks National Random Acts of Kindness Week

This was National Random Acts of Kindness Week. Bethel High School students and staff came together to support local and national charities through various events during the week, culminating in an assembly Friday. Students wore tie-dye t-shirts in honor for TamboStrong, an organization to benefit the Tamburino family. Mike Tamburino was diagnosed with ALS last year, his wife Lois is an ISS teacher at BHS and their children are all recent BHS graduates.

The Kindness Committee includes five students who helped organized Spirit Week activities for the school community to participate in.

Senior Catherine Galliford says their first big project was to participate in World Kindness Day in November. They saw different instances of intolerance and hatred, not just in the school, and wanted to take a stand against it. Galliford added that seeing the proliferation of hatred turned her more cynical and she didn’t like the feeling.

Junior Audrey Garcia says the fall Spirit Week gets a lot of hype because it’s a competition and they wanted to channel that energy into this cause. The “Kindness Games” week involved a different charity each day, and students were encouraged to wear a specific color. Points were given to each grade level for their participation in the various activities. For example, students wore wearing orange on Monday and brought in canned goods to support the Bethel Food Pantry.

Throughout the week, a Penny Wars took place. Jars labeled by grade were placed around the school to collect pennies for TamboStrong.

Tuesday was “Make a Wish Foundation” Day.  Senior Emily Lane says they received information about four children, and each grade wrote letters to those kids. She says the community really comes together for students in need, and they want to show that kindness to others. Some of the funds in the Kindness Account was used to buy gifts for the children. At the end of the week, each of the four kids were sent a bag of supportive letters and a present.

Junior Anne Habeck says they sold carnations on Valentine’s Day and hosted a “speed friending” event. Like speed dating, the students reached out beyond their established group. Seniors and Sophomores got together, and the Juniors and Freshmen got together. Students reached out between grade levels to get to know other students at the school.

The JROTC program at BHS spearheaded Thursday’s Spirit Day, raising money for the Wounded Warrior Project. Patrick Joyce says they received merchandise from the organization, which were each sold for $1. The class contributing the most to got the kindness points for that day. Joyce notes that they also featured a video Thursday from the Wounded Warrior Project about how people can help them out during the year.

Joyce says this week is more personable than the fall Spirit Week, because many of the students know Lois Tamburino. Since it hits home, he says students who might not normally participate have done so this week.

About 500 tie-dye t-shirts were sold to benefit TamboStrong in the lead up to Kindness Week.

Assistant Principal Mari Lerz says the inspiration for the Kindness Committee came from various programs in place elsewhere. She says they wanted to make something uniquely Bethel, while teaching similar values. They looked at what Sandy Hook Promise and Ben’s Bells have to offer and created their own Kindness Program. It started small with World Kindness Day in November, followed by a gratitude and thankfulness advisory around Thanksgiving. Lerz says the kids came up with the idea to support five different charities during this National Random Acts of Kindness Week, while making it fun and interactive. 

Lerz says she’s very proud of the students on the Kindness Committee, who are working to make the school and the town a better place. 

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Danbury, Brookfield fire recruits start training program

Five new Danbury Fire Department recruits have started the training program at the Connecticut Fire Academy.  Department officials say the program is an 18 week course that will prepare them for a safe and healthy career as firefighters. 

 

Two Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company firefighters have started at the Connecticut Fire Academy in the Recruit program.  It runs 40 or more hours a week and is wraps up at the end of May.  Fire officials say the intense program covers all disciplines of firefighting, technical rescue and Haz-Mat.  The recruits are paying their own tuition and the company is the sponsoring agency.

 

There are 46 members in the class.  

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Newtown school buses to test alternate entrance to Reed School

The Newtown Police Commission agreed to a 2-week safety test period of school buses using an alternate accessway to Reed Intermediate School.  The Board of Education voted to change school start times and some buses are looking to use Old Farm Road between 8:50am and 9am.  All-Star Transportation believes this will alleviate traffic at the Mile Hill Road-Wasserman Way-Trades Lane intersection.  Reed School custodial staff will chain and unchain the gates each morning.  The Commission will meet March 6th and reevaluate the situation.

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Permanent Prescription Drug Dropbox now at Danbury Police department

There is now a Prescription Drug Dropbox in the lobby of the Danbury Police Station.  The box is available 24-hours a day, 7-days a week for people to safely dispose of unwanted, unused, and expired medications.  Police Chief Patrick Ridenhour says this will help residents keep the medicines away from children, other unauthorized persons, and pets.

 

The prescription drug dropbox was donated by the Rite Aid Corporation’s KidCents Foundation Safe Medication Disposal Program. The Housatonic Valley Coalition Against Substance Abuse and Danbury-based Stand Together Make A Difference partnered with the Danbury Police Department to help address issues of substance abuse. 

 

The Rotary Club has donated funding to pay for some liners for the box.

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Local lawmaker opposes minimum wage increase proposal

A local lawmaker opposes a proposal to hike the state's minimum wage.  Wilton Senator Toni Boucher says the proposal, particularly at this time, would damage Connecticut's struggling economy and further weaken its anemic job market.   She noted that the state's unemployment is higher than any other state in the Northeast.  Boucher says the small increase a minimum wage earner will receive may not be enough to offset the higher costs businesses are forced to pass on to consumers.

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Truck fire closes I-84 westbound in Danbury

Interstate-84 westbound in Danbury is closed at exit 5 due to a truck fire.  Traffic is being diverted off the highway at exit 5, with a detour on North Main Street to Lake Avenue.  Vehicles will be allowed back on the highway at exit 4.  The truck fire is just before that exit.  There is some rubbernecking delays eastbound from exit 3 out to the fire site.

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Danbury Animal Control warns pet owners about coyotes

Danbury Animal Control is cautioning residents not to leave their pets unattended outside at this time of year.  This is coyote mating season and they can become aggressive.  Animal Control says they have had several small dogs or cats lost to coyotes this year, more so than in the past.  The pets shouldn't be unattended, even inside an electric fence because coyotes can enter and the dog has no escape.

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Easton Democrat announces state House candidacy

An Easton Democrat is throwing her hat into the ring for the 135th state House seat.  52-year old Anne Hughes is looking to challenge Republican incumbent Adam Dunsby for the district which also includes Redding and Weston.  Dunsby is also Easton's First Selectman.  Hughes is a political newcomer.  She works at Bridgeport-based Jewish Senior Services, a non-profit.  She is a social worker and case manager.

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'Man in a Van' rescues 140,000 pounds of food for local pantries

The so-called “Man in a Van” has rescued nearly 140,000 pounds of food since October for delivery in the Danbury area. 

 

Mike Greene has been driving miles each day picking up food from local grocery stores to bring to local food pantries.  The pantries are part of the Danbury Food Collaborative, which is helping to feed hungry families and individuals who struggle to afford food.  The Danbury resident is the former coordinator of the food pantry for Danbury’s Interfaith AIDS Ministry, and continues to work there part-time. 

 

In 82 days, Greene has driven 5,084 miles around Greater Danbury, rescuing 138,673 pounds of fresh food.  

 

The Connecticut Food Bank provides Greene with a food delivery van.  United Way of Western Connecticut covers the van's insurance and gas.  Danbury Food Collaborative is looking to to formalize the role and sustain the effort by hiring a driver.  Danbury Food Collaborative has set up a GoFundMe page with a goal of $7,000 to enable them to rescue more than 400,000 pounds of food per year.

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Testimony continues is child sex assault case

During yesterday's testimony in a sex assault case against a Danbury man, his attorney raised the suggestion that someone else was responsible for the crime.  The Newstimes reports that Rony Ortega's attorney asked the then 3-year old victim's mother if anyone else was living in the home when the assault happened.  She replied that a person renting a room moved out about a week later.  Ortega's attorney claimed to have witnesses backing the new allegation, but the judge reportedly told jurors to disregard the question.  “Third-party culpability” can only be brought if evidence is shown.

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Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce has new leader

A new president and CEO of the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce has been named.  PJ Prunty will leave his post as CityCenter director by the end of the month to fill the role.  He begins in position March 5th, taking over from interim director JoAnn Cueva. 

 

The Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce has more than 800 members.  

 

Stephen Bull, who served as Chamber president for 20 years, was let go in October.  Cueva and director of office operations Amelia Anderson have been leading chamber members during the transition period. 

 

Prunty is a board member for the Danbury & New Milford Hospital Foundation, Regional YMCA of Western Connecticut and United Way of Western Connecticut Community Council. 

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Brookfield residents approve allocation for schools

Brookfield residents have approved a special appropriation for the schools to cover a shortfall this year.  $470,000 which would have gone into the fund balance from Brookfield's former health insurance carrier, will instead go to the schools.  To make up the remaining $400,000 shortfall, school officials plan a budget freeze.  The deficit was created after a dozen additional students needed placement outside of the district for special education services not provided by Brookfield.  

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Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission moves forward with design process

The Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission has narrowed down the number of designs for further consideration.  Of the 188 designs submitted, 13 were selected to move on.  Some aspects of designs that were favorable included the way the sacred soil was handled, bells or chimes, an unfinished wall, bathrooms, covered shelter, a viewing platform, a pavilion like structure that is not enclosed, memorial benches surrounding a fountain, and a slash through the landscape.  The 26 families are now being given opportunities to view the 13 projects.

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Truck driver cited for running over disabled vehicle stopped on highway

Three people escaped injury when a truck ran over a disabled vehicle on the highway Tuesday night.  State Police say 19-year old Cheyenne Morgan Wandall of New Milford was headed west on I-84 in Newtown and had mechanical problems. 

 

The car was half in the shoulder and half in the left lane, and the driver and passenger stepped out of the vehicle.  A mack truck in the left lane tried to stop, but couldn't and drove over the sedan. 

 

The car was lodged beneath the truck. 

 

The highway by exit 9 was closed for nearly two hours.  The diesel fuel tank ruptured, releasing about 80 gallons onto the highway.  DEEP called in an environmental contractor for the clean-up. 

 

51-year old Vincent Phillips of Waterbury was cited for traveling too fast for conditions.

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Informational sessions being held in Brookfield on proposed library project

Brookfield Library officials are hosting a series of gatherings for residents to learn about the new library project.  The proposal calls for a $14.7 million, 35,000 square foot facility.  There is no set location for a new library. 

 

The informational sessions will be held in the community room of the current library.  Sessions are from 8 to 10am today, 3:30 to 5:30pm Friday.

 

6:30 to 8pm on the 22nd, 11am to 12:30pm on the 24th, noon to 1pm on the 25th and 5 to 6:30pm on the 26th. 

 

A vote is scheduled on the project on February 27th.

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NY man charged in child porn case

A Pawling man has been arrested for promoting an obscene sexual performance by a child. 

 

30-year old Felipe Ramon was charged Tuesday.  He is  accused of soliciting pornographic photos from, and sending photos to, a child less than 17 years old via social media sites and a cell phone.  The victim was known to Ramon. 

 

He was charged with 9 felony counts each of use of a child in a sexual performance, possession of a sexual performance by a child and the promotion charge.  Ramon was arraigned and ordered held on $100,000 bond. 

 

The Dutchess County Sheriff's Office is asking that anyone having information about the case or similar incidents involving Ramon to contact them at 845-486-3778.

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Child testifies in sex assault case

A 6-year old has testified in the sex assault case against 36-year old Rony Ortega of Danbury.  He is accused of molesting the child when she was 3-years old.  The Newstimes reports that the girl wasn’t able to recount the purported abuse while on the stand yesterday.  The girl's mother also testified.  According to court documents, the child's mother noticed the her shorts were rolled down around the waist. The girl reportedly told her mother that that Ortega pulled down her pants and touched her. Ortega denied the encounter, but a DNA sample from the clothing was a partial match.

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Redding residents vote to ban fracking waste storage, use

Redding residents have approved a ban on the use and storage of fracking waste.  Critics of fracking say the process for extracting oil or natural gas out of bedrock could contaminate groundwater.  A violation of the ordinance could result in a $250 fine and associated legal costs.  Fracking is not used in Connecticut, but the waste can be brought in and used as fill at construction sites.  Residents also approved funding for upgrades at the Redding Wastewater Treatment plant and adopted changes to the Land Use Applications ordinance and Land Use Fee Schedules.

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Woman, 5 children found unharmed in alleged kidnapping

A woman suspected of kidnapping her children in a custodial dispute in Massachusetts was arrested in Danbury yesterday. 

 

State Police received an alert that 40-year old Shareen Tanna took her three children and two other kids from Pittsfield Massachusetts and was likely headed to Rochester, New York, via I-84.  Tanna threatened to harm herself and her children. 

 

Her car was located at a gas station on Newtown Road and she was taken into custody.  All five children in the car were uninjured. 

 

Tanna was held on $100,000 bond for arraignment today and is awaiting extradition to Massachusetts.

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New Milford Police search for man who stole cell phone at Taco Bell

New Milford Police are looking for the public's help in identifying a man who stole a cell phone off a fast food restaurant counter.  Police say the man stole the Samsung Galaxy 7 from the Taco Bell yesterday, around 12:15pm.  Anyone who can identify the man is asked to contact New Milford Police at 860-355-3133.

 

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Newtown planners hold hearing on mixed-use development application

The Newtown Inland Wetlands Commission is taking up an application tonight on the proposed mixed-use Hunters Ridge complex.  A public hearing on the application by 79 Church Hill Road, LLC will be held at 7:30pm.  The Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing tomorrow on the proposals.  The project would sit on 35-acres of undeveloped land near the Exit 10 interchange ramps.  224 rental apartments in 6 buildings, with related amenities, are planned.  20 percent, or 45 units, would be designated as affordable to help meet a state mandate to increase its stock of affordable housing.  Two two-story buildings are planned for retail, medical and restaurant space.

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Danbury seeks state grant money for Westside Middle School Academy temporary classrooms

The Danbury City Council has signed off on plans to accept state funding for the Westside Middle School Academy temporary classroom project. 

 

Danbury is required to submit a resolution to the state Department of Administrative Services that creates a school building committee.  Schematic and final design drawings will be submitted as well. 

 

School District Finance Director Joe Martino says this will essentially allow them to transfer some students to Westside, dropping numbers at Broadview and Rogers Park middle schools.  He says the portable classrooms at Shelter Rock Elementary have been helpful, though there is a flattening off of enrollment in those grade levels.  Now there is an increase coming up the line at the secondary level. 

 

Martino sees this as a reasonable solution to alleviate stress that's getting pushed onto those schools by the growing population.  He notes it's also the reason why the high school addition was approved.

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DOT signs off on New Milford roundabout project

The state Department of Transportation has approved the final design submission for New Milford's Still River Drive and Pickett District Road Roundabout project.  The DOT authorized New Milford to send the project out to bid.  The $1.2 million project replaces an all-way stop sign controlled intersection with a roundabout.  It also includes the repaving of the Still River Drive approaches to the intersection. Construction is expected to begin this year.

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Wooster School students construct 'tiny house' on Danbury campus

Tiny Houses are a growing phenomenon among reality tv watchers and now there's a framed-in tiny house taking shape on Wooster School's campus in Danbury.  Wooster’s Makerspace and Theater teacher Kim Gerardi says the building process, adding utilities, and interior design makes for a rich curriculum. 

 

The students will have to decided whether it will run on electricity or solar power and whether water will come from the well system or rain collection.  Students have been researching whether it should be mobile or stay on campus. 

 

Gerardi says the tiny house could become a new student center, visiting or new faculty could live there for a month and write about it, or it could be used for a Senior Independent Study experience.  Other ideas include using it as a spirit truck to sell Wooster Wear and concessions. 

 

Gerardi plans to enter Wooster in the Maker Faire Westport 2018 in April.

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Brookfield parking ordinance changed in town center area

The Brookfield Board of Selectmen has approved a change to the town center parking ordinance.  The change allows overnight parking in some designated spaces in the Four Corners area.  The previous ordinance only allowed parking for up to an hour between the hours of 2am and 6am.  The official change was needed to meet an agreement with the Brookfield Village development.

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DOT agrees to hold hearing in Danbury on proposed Danbury Branch changes for Metro North

The state Department of Transportation has decided to hold a public hearing in Danbury about service cut and fare increase proposals for the Danbury branch of Metro North.  The DOT was asked by Democratic 2nd District state House candidate Raghib Allie-Brennan.  He questioned how there could be fair public input on changes to the Danbury Line without a public hearing in the Danbury area.  The DOT Hearing is set for Monday the 26th from 4pm to 8pm at Danbury City Hall.

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Marcy College, Putnam County partner on degree program

Mercy College will be offering a bachelor's degree program in corporate and homeland security management through Putnam County's Bureau of Emergency Services' Training and Operations Center Building in Carmel. 

 

The program will begin this Fall. 

 

County Executive MaryEllen Odell says they have a community of first responders, both career and volunteer, and this program will help build a succession plan in law enforcement.  By teaming up with Mercy College, Odell says Putnam County can advance secondary educational opportunities. 

 

The four-year degree offered through the Mercy College's School of Business is the first undergraduate degree of its kind.  It's designed to provide a comprehensive background for students interested in pursuing professional managerial careers in the private or public sectors where business and security skills coexist. 

 

There will be one full scholarship and several partial scholarships awarded.

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Brookfield officials consider replacement field suggestions

A replacement soccer field in Brookfield could be built north of the municipal center, if the current field is the spot chosen for a new library.  The Facilities Ad Hoc Committee says there are other fields there, so they could all be clustered together. 

 

But the Brookfield Soccer Club opposes the plan saying it's too tiny of a space to fit a full sized field. 

 

First Selectman Steve Dunn said some parking would have to be eliminated and it could be a tight fit.  A referendum is scheduled for the 27th on the proposed 14-point-7 million dollar, 35-thousand square foot library project. 

 

The location would be decided by the Board of Selectmen, though the library committee suggests Horse Field.  Brookfield Soccer Club raised the money to build the field 20 years ago. 

 

The Facilities Ad Hoc Committee includes representatives from Parks and Recreation, economic development, schools and athletic communities.

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Animal Control finds family to adopt dog of man arrested on outstanding warrants

Danbury Animal Control has found a family to adopt a dog in immediate need of a new home.  The owner was arrested and incarcerated last week and asked for police to find a new home for his 6-year old Doberman Pinscher.  

 

50-year old Johnny Delong was arrested for three outstanding warrants for charges that included three counts of failing to register as a sex offender and 6 counts of failing to register in other jurisdictions.  He was held on a combined $275,000 court set bond. 

 

Animal Control received an overwhelming response, over 100 calls, about adopting the dog.  They say he was placed with a family that traveled a considerable distance to adopt him.  The new owner, a veterinarian, owns a 20 acre farm and an animal hospital.

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Town meeting in Redding on fracking waste ban, funding for wastewater treatment plant

A town meeting is being held in Redding tonight to decide on a proposed ordinance to ban the use or storage of fracking waste.  The vote will be held at 7pm at the Redding Community Center.  Critics say fracking, a process for extracting oil or natural gas out of bedrock, contaminates groundwater.  Opponents of the proposal say it has too many loopholes. 

 

A violation of the proposed ordinance could result in a $250 fine and associated legal costs. 

 

Fracking is not used in Connecticut, but the waste can be brought in and used as fill at construction sites.  

 

Residents are also being asked to consider funding for upgrades at the Redding Wastewater Treatment plant, totalling little more than $796,000.  The work will be financed through a municipal lease and the unassigned fund balance. 

 

Residents will also being deciding on adoption of changes to the Land Use Applications ordinance and changes to the Land Use Fee Schedules. 

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Area police departments continue to warn about kidnapping phone scam

Newtown Police are cautioning residents to be aware of a phone scam hitting other towns.  Monroe Police have handled half a dozen complaints this week alone of people receiving a call from someone saying their loved one hit another car, and was being held at gunpoint if money for repairs wasn't sent via Western Union immediately. 

 

Newtown Police say the calls have been received by town residents in the past. 

 

Police suggest calling the loved one to verify that they're safe.  Newtown Police also noted that scammers are using thousands of different numbers so the best practice is to never answer unless you recognize the phone number.  If it’s important enough, legitimate callers will leave a message.

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Freedom of Information Commission workshop tonight in Newtown

The state Freedom of Information Commission is hosting a workshop in Newtown tonight aimed at help residents and officials understand their rights and obligations under the Freedom of Information Act.  Among other topics, presenters will discuss meeting notice requirements, filing of meeting minutes and what actions can be taken during executive session.  All Department Heads, Board and Commission Members and the Public were encouraged to attend the free workshop.  It's being held at 7pm in Newtown Municipal Center Council Chambers.

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Beleaguered gunmaker Remington points to bankruptcy court

MADISON, N.C. (AP) -- Remington, the gun maker beset by falling sales and lawsuits tied to the shooting at Sandy Hook School, has reached a financing deal that would allow it to continue operating as it seeks Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

The maker of the Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle used on 12/14, said Monday that the agreement with lenders will reduce its debt by about $700 million and add about $145 million in new capital.

The company was cleared of any wrongdoing in the shooting, but investors distanced themselves from the company's owner, investment firm Cerberus Capital Management. Cerberus acquired the gun maker in 2007, just when gun sales began to skyrocket.

Firearm background checks, a reliable barometer of gun sales, had risen steadily for at least a decade.

That changed last year with the election of President Trump, and it has taken a toll on the gun industry.  Gun sales spike on the election of candidates who are perceived to be more likely to pursue more stringent gun control laws, whether or not there is any truth in that perception.

The opposite has occurred since Trump was elected. He became the first sitting president to address the National Rifle Association in three decades, telling members at their annual meeting last spring that "You have a true friend and champion in the White House."

Firearm background checks declined faster in 2017 than in any year since 1998, when the FBI first began compiling the data.

While Remington is not a publicly traded company, shares in rival Sturm, Ruger & Co. slid almost 3 percent Monday. It's shares have fallen almost 14 percent this year.

Remington Outdoor Co., the nation's oldest gun maker, will attempt to file a prepackaged reorganization plan with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court of Delaware under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code.

The company, based in Madison, North Carolina, did not respond to attempts by The Associated Press to contact the company about the timing of bankruptcy procedures.

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Brewster man arrested for assaulting taxi driver with knife

A Brewster man has been arrested for assaulting a taxi driver with a knife.  New York State Police received a call about the attack Sunday and determined that the victim was taking the suspect, 43-year old Manuel Estabon, to the bank to get money to pay for the ride. 

 

Before reaching the bank, Estabon allegedly slashed the driver in the face, neck, and hands. 

 

Estabon then fled into a nearby wooded area.  He was caught and charged with assault and criminal possession of a weapon.  Estabon was arraigned and ordered held on $300,000 bond. 

 

The victim is in stable condition.

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Carmel Police talk suicidal man out of barricaded home

Carmel Police and the Putnam County Sheriff's Department peacefully ended a barricade incident on Sunday.  Police responded to a home on Bullet Hole Road in Mahopac to perform a welfare check on a 20-year-old man who was possibly suicidal. 

 

The man became highly agitated and told police he would not go back to the hospital.  He threatened to get a knife and stab whoever tried taking him to the hospital, barricaded himself in his bedroom and threatened to burn the house down.

 

The Emergency Response Team surrounded the house while the Hostage Negotiation Team spoke by phone with the man for about an hour.  They persuaded him to surrender peacefully and took him to an area hospital for a psychiatric evaluation.

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Local land trusts to receive state grant money to preserve open space

Three Greater Danbury area towns are receiving state grant money to preserve open space.  In total, 23 municipalities will spilt little more than $6 million to purchase about 2,000 acres of land. 

 

The Naromi Land Trust will use $76,500 to preserve nearly 38 acres in Sherman.  The Eastman Parcel is undeveloped forested land south of Ten Mile River, and abuts land currently protected by Naromi Land Trust and Federal Land associated with the Appalachian Trail.  The property is a mix of hardwood/hemlock forest, steep slopes, stone walls, wooded wetland, vernal pool, rock outcroppings, and vistas of the Housatonic River. 

 

Steep Rock Association in the town of Washington will use $886,500 to preserve 50 acres known as the Johnson Farm.  It is composed of 38 acres of hayfields, 12 acres of forestland, and 10 acres of wetland, which drain to Sprain Brook. While not directly abutting West Mountain Preserve, it is only a 300 yard walk. 

 

Aspetuck Land Trust in Weston will receive about $165,500 dollars to preserve 38 acres in Weston.  The Belknap Property is adjacent to Asputuck’s 81-acre Honey Hill Preserve and is part of a greenway of 2,600 acres of land owned by Wilton Land Conservation Trust, Asputuck, The Nature Conservancy and the Towns of Wilton and Weston. The proposal serves to create trail linkages and enhance habitat preservation.

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Sherman teen arrested on drug related charges after car crash by DHS

A Sherman teenager involved in a car accident in Danbury has been arrested on drug related charges.  Police on Thursday responded to Clapboard Ridge Road, in the area of the high school, and could smell marijuana coming from one of the vehicles. 

 

Inside 18-year old Emily Burkhadt's car, officers found pot, a marijuana grinder, THC Wax, several amphetamine salts, Adderall pills, and sheets of acid.  As she was transported to the police station, Burkhardt was seen moving in the back of the cruiser.  Officers then found additional Adderall Pills.

 

Burkhardt was charged with illegal possession of a hallucinogen, possession of a controlled substance, interfering with a Police Officer and following to closely, two counts each of possession of marijuana, possession of paraphernalia, possession of paraphernalia near a school, and manufacturing with intent to sell hallucinogens, and three counts each of possession near a school and possession with intent to sell. 

 

Burkhardt was held on a $25,000.00 bond.

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Danbury officials get update on DHS expansion project

The Danbury City Council got an update recently on the progress of renovations and the expansion at Danbury High School.  Despite the winter weather, work is on schedule to end by the upcoming school year. 

 

Public Works Director Antonio Iadarola says the cafeteria addition was mostly completed before this school year.  The current canopy was enclosed to accommodate the increased student population.  The site contractor finished the entire sidewalk and front plaza concrete walk. Paving scheduled for this summer was done early.  The mechanical contractors have completed all the underground work.  This school year was pushed back to after Labor Day to give workers time to get the redesigned front entrance, along with parking and bus expansions, completed.

 

The Black Box Theatre footing and retaining have been poured. The drainage and waterline relocation is complete.

 

The Danbury High School addition includes a two story gym, an academic floor and a level for science and computer labs.  The design will essentially give the 9th grade their own building, creating the Freshmen Academy. 

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Danbury students to compete in statewide math, science competitions

Ten Broadview Middle School students competed against nine other teams in the 2018 Northwest MATHCOUNTS regional competition held at Naugatuck Valley Community College earlier this month.  Four Danbury students are moving on to the state competition being held on March 10th at the University of  Hartford. 

 

Broadview and Brookfield middle schools were the only teams to qualify for the state competition.  The four Broadview students who will move on to the state competition are eighth graders Jessica Walia, Afrah Rafi, Vatsal Bandaru and John Caceres.

 

Ten Westside Middle School Academy students are headed to the Connecticut Science Fair.  The 70th annual event in mid-March will be held at Quinnipiac University.  In 2016, the Danbury school was recognized as the most successful middle school in the state at the competition after eight of ten Westside Middle School students were selected as finalists.  Nearly two dozen judges, including scientists, engineers and teachers, viewed the Danbury student's projects, which all had to involve physical or life science, or engineering.

 

Kushi Parikh, an eighth-grader, designed a software application that can detect Lyme disease from a photo image with 90 percent accuracy.  Timothy Chen focused on researching the most efficient wind turbine blade. He counted rotation speed to determine which of three blades was the most likely to get the best result.  Stella Walker investigated “The Effect of Barometric Pressure on the Speed of WiFi,” including how humidity and temperature affect speed.  Paloma Lenz did a project involving cleaning up storm water pollution.

 

The other seventh- and eighth-grade STEM students are Alice Collignon, Mathew Mathew, Alex Morquecho, Aidan Scott, PJ Seiler, and Vincent Trombetto. 

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Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission moves forward with design process

The Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission will complete evaluation of the 188 submitted designs tomorrow.  The gathering is set for 7pm in the Newtown High School Lecture Hall.  Once the Phase 1 evaluation is completed, the Commission plans to publish all designs on their website.

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Kent First Selectman thanks groups for helping during ice jam emergency

Though a lot of ice remains, Kent First Selectman Bruce Adams says it appears the worst is over when it comes to the ice jam on the Housatonic River.  He thanked all of the people and groups who helped out with various  functions during the flooding event, including the Office of Emergency Management, Kent Volunteer Fire Department and the Kent Resident Trooper, among others. 

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Monroe Police warn of phone extortion scam

Monroe Police say they have received several calls for service relating to an old phone scam.  Police say virtual kidnapping takes on many forms, but it is always an extortion scheme.  One call tricks victims into paying a ransom to free a loved one they believe is being threatened with violence or death.  Monroe Police urge recipients to hang up and contact your loved one to verify their safety.  The scammer relies on panic and fear to get victims to send money.

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New Milford man charged for leaving scene of crash

A 22-year old New Milford man has been charged with driving while intoxicated following a car crash that injured his passenger.  Putnam County Sheriff's Deputies responded to Cameron’s Deli in Southeast last Friday morning on a report of an unconscious woman inside a vehicle. 

 

The rear passenger door of the vehicle was severely dented and the window had been shattered.  Maxwell Archer had a Blood Alcohol Content of .12-percent.  He told Police that he hit a tree somewhere on Route 312, but couldn't say where exactly. 

 

An open bottle of whiskey was recovered from inside the vehicle.  In addition to the DWI, Archer was charged with Leaving the Scene of an Accident.

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Town meeting in Monroe to approve funding requests

There's a town meeting in Monroe tonight about three funding requests.  One is to pay for two vehicles for the Stevenson Volunteer Fire Department.  Another is to purchase two dump trucks for the Department of Public Works.  The Other is funding for road construction and reconstruction Phase 5.  The town meeting is at Monroe Town Hall at 7pm.  A utility truck and a chief’s vehicle for the Stevenson Fire Department totals $132,000.  The replacement Public Works vehicles total $406,000.  The next phase of road reconstruction is little more than $1 million.

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Crash, fallen tree limb close two Brookfield roads

Federal Road and Route 7 in Brookfield were each closed for a stretch of time over the weekend.  Early on Saturday morning there was a two car crash on Route 7.  Both rolled over and 6 people were injured.  Danbury emergency responders assisted at the scene, removing two victims from one vehicle.  All 6 patients were transported to Danbury Hospital.  State Police Troopers are investigating the cause of the accident.  On Sunday, part of Federal Road was closed because of a damaged transformer.  A tree limb fell and took down a power line.  About 300 customers were without power for about 5 hours.

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Court sets hearing on Newtown shooter's belongings

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The Connecticut Supreme Court has scheduled arguments on whether state police have to publicly release some of the Newtown school killer's belongings, including a spreadsheet ranking mass murders and a violent story he wrote as a child.

The hearing is set for March 1.

The Hartford Courant and state Freedom of Information Commission are appealing a decision by a lower court judge, who ruled in 2016 that state police don't have to release documents that belonged to shooter Adam Lanza. The commission had ordered state police to release the materials.

The 20-year-old Lanza shot his mother to death at their Newtown home before killing 20 first-graders and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Dec. 14, 2012. He killed himself as police arrived at the school.

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Westport man pleads guilty in sex ring-related case

DANBURY, Conn. (AP) - A Westport man has pleaded guilty to patronizing a trafficked person and agreed to cooperate with Connecticut investigators against others involved in an alleged Danbury-based sex ring involving troubled young men.

The Hartford Courant reports that Danbury Superior Court Judge Susan Reynolds on Friday handed 72-year-old William Trefzger a 10-year sentence, suspended after one year.

Trefzger has a prior sex assault conviction and has been held on a $250,000 cash bond since his arrest last spring.

Trefzger and Bruce Bemer of Glastonbury were arrested in connection with the ring, which authorities believe may have been operating for decades. Bemer owns the New London-Waterford Speedbowl and Bemer Petroleum Corporation in Glastonbury.

Bemer has opted for a jury trial. If convicted, he could face up to 30 years in prison.

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New Fairfield First Selectman supports federal notification proposal

A bill requiring notification of all municipalities in a 30 miles radius of a proposed power plant, regardless of if they're in the same state has been introduced. 

 

New Fairfield First Selectman Pat Del Monaco supports the measure as a way to increase transparency and public participation.  She and others expressed concern about a plant opening in nearby Dover, New York.  Del Monaco says the proposal would guarantee local officials and the public the opportunity to assess and provide comment on potential impacts on crucial natural resources including air and drinking water.

 

A group called Newtown Forward supports the NOTICE Act, as it will increase fairness and allow for greater transparency in the review process for power plant facilities. 

 

Danbury state Senator Michael McLachlan thanked Congresswoman Esty for introducing the bill after concerns were raised about Cricket Valley Energy Power Plant coming to Dover, New York.  He says it's essentially is being built in the back yard of Connecticut residents and state lines should not be a reason for not informing residents who could be impacted.

 

The Cricket Valley Energy Center natural gas power plant is slated to open in 2020 in Dover, New York.  The state's Department of Environmental Conservation is not required to notify nearby Connecticut towns under current law. 

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Valentine's Day cards collected for veterans

The 8th annual “Valentines for Vets” program hosted by 4th District Congressman Jim Himes has collected cards made by students to deliver to veterans at the local VA hospital, Homes for the Brave and other service organizations.  Himes says dozens of schools participate every year and everyone benefits from the activity.  Himes says not only do the veterans receive reminders of love and gratitude, but the children also learn about sacrifice, civic responsibility and service.

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Local athletes participating in the 2018 Olympics

6 members of the American delegation to the 2018 Olympic Winter Games are from Connecticut.  23-year old Tucker West of Ridgefield, who competes in the luge event and 32-year old Lindsey Jacobellis of Roxbury, who competes in snowboarding are among the team members.  

 

Governor Malloy said state residents are incredibly proud to have a group of talented, powerful, and determined athletes representing this nation on an international stage. 

 

Lt Governor Nancy Wyman congratulated the Connecticut athletes.  She says they have shown amazing commitment and dedication to their sports, and Connecticut couldn’t be prouder of them.  Wyman notes that it's a lot of responsibility to represent America overseas, but she is confident they will do a great job and enjoy the adventure.

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Bethel Selectmen send water improvement project proposals to Finance board

The Bethel Board of Selectmen voted at their meeting this week to take on two water improvement projects, which still need Board of Finance approval.  Residents would then get a chance to vote on the work at a Special Town Meeting scheduled for the 27th. 

 

One project would upgrade the Briar Cliff pump station and extend the water main to Long Meadow Lane.  The other project would replace old water mains on six roads.  The work is estimated at $863,000 and $978,000, respectively.  Bethel water customers, not taxpayers, will repay loans from the state Department of Health for the work. 

 

The roads impacted by the second project are Second Lane, Melillo Avenue, Whitlock Avenue, Tremont Avenue, Pleasant Rise, and Farnham Hill.

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Bethel Board of Selectmen sign off on tax deferral ordinance

The Bethel Board of Selectmen has signed off on a tax deferral ordinance aimed at encouraging businesses to move to or expand there.  The new law temporarily forgives taxes on the increased value of new commercial properties or upgrades to existing buildings.  The acceptance was approved unanimously at their meeting on Tuesday. 

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Bethel officials approve generator purchase for new police station

Bethel ordered a so-called “tier 3” generator for the new police station currently under construction.  Town officials decided at their meeting Tuesday against the more expensive option recommended by the Energy Conservation Commission.  The other generator would have allowed Bethel to sell power back to the grid.  Town officials say the money made off that would not be enough to justify the cost.  The police station, off Judd Avenue, is slated to open in 2022.

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Redding GOP backs Dunsby for reelection

Connecticut residents will not only be electing a new Governor this November, but also members of the state House and Senate.  The Redding Republican Town Committee officially endorsed incumbent Representative Adam Dunsby for election to a second term.  The 135th House district also includes Easton, and Weston.  Dunsby is currently a member of Finance, Revenue and Bonding Committee, the Education Committee and the Environment Committee.

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Defibrillators donated to 4 area EMS departments

Defibrillator have been donated to four EMS departments in Litchfield County.  Bridgewater, Sherman, Warren and Washington emergency services each received an automated external defibrillator, which also acts as a pre-hospital monitoring and transmission system for EKG data.  The technology can send the information from the ambulance to the hospital. 

 

The donation came from two New Milford Hospital donors. 

 

Until recently, EMS providers lacked a fast, consistent method for transmitting high-quality 12-lead EKGs to hospitals. Officials say wireless transmission, can save treatment time by allowing emergency room physicians to review clinical information, make treatment decisions, and prepare for treatment before a patient arrives at the hospital.

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State House candidate calls for hearings in Danbury on Metro North service reduction proposal

A Democrat looking to be elected to the state House in November is calling on the Department of Transportation to hold a public hearing in Danbury on proposed fare increases and service reductions to the Danbury Line. 

 

2nd District candidate Raghib Allie-Brennan noted that the closest hearings are Stamford and Waterbury.  He questioned how there could be fair public input on changes to the Danbury branch without a public hearing in the Danbury area. 

 

Allie-Brennan says the proposed changes will burden residents and hurt efforts to expand and attract business locally.  He added that area commuters shouldn't be punish for the legislature’s mismanagement of the state's transportation funds.

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Concerns over NY natural gas plant sparks federal legislative proposal

Concerns over construction of a new natural gas-fired power plant in Dover, New York have prompted Congresswoman Elizabeth Esty to introduce a bill that would give notification of such construction. 

 

Families and local leaders in Sherman, Sharon, and New Fairfield expressed concerns to Esty and she craft the NOTICE ACT, Notify Officials, Towns, Individuals, and Cities (NOTICE) of Electric Generating Facilities Act. 

 

Cricket Valley Energy Center natural gas power plant is slated to open in 2020.  The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation is not required to notify bordering Connecticut towns under current law.  Esty’s legislation would require the notification of a proposed power plant to municipalities within 30 miles of the proposed development. 

 

Esty notes that families in Sherman and New Fairfield breathe the same air, drink the same water, and enjoy many of the same natural resources as those in Dover – they should have the same right to provide input before power plants are built in their neighborhoods.

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Children's Bible Fellowship CFO charged for embezzling money

A Wisconsin man has been arrested for allegedly embezzling funds from the Children's Bible Fellowship in Brewster.  New York State police say an investigation was launched in July when CBF officials discovered the missing funds. 

 

The investigation revealed that during the 12-year tenure of David Eldridge as Chief Financial Officer, the 54-year old stole more than $100,000.  The funds were redirected to pay for Eldridge’s personnel expenses. 

 

He was charged on Monday with grand larceny and released after arraignment.  He is due back in court on the 26th.

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Unlicensed driver caught with 30 grams of pot, cocaine during traffic stop

A Danbury man stopped for traffic violations was found in possession of more than 30-grams of marijuana and 3-point-7 grams of cocaine.  30-year old Jay Sanchez was stopped by New York State police on I-684 in Southeast Tuesday. 

 

Troopers could smell pot in the vehicle. 

 

Sanchez was charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of marijuana and aggravated unlicensed operation.  He was arraigned and ordered held at Putnam County Jail on $10,000 bond.

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Teen due in court on charges stemming from credit card theft, use

An 18-year old has been arrested by Newtown Police for allegedly stealing credit and debit cards from inside a locked car, and then using them.  Police responded to a Borough Lane home on January 22nd to investigate the break in.  It was determined that the cards were used at 4 stores in  Newtown Shopping Village.  Police recognized the suspect as Michael Vanhavere-Bruno.  He was spotted at a nearby restaurant and found in possession of the purchased items, which included alcohol, and as well as the stolen debit and credit cards.  Vanhavere-Bruno pleaded not guilty at arraignment and is due back in court today. 

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Wilton manufacturer pledges to add jobs, gets state grant

A Wilton-based company is expanding their operations, and Connecticut is providing them an incentive package to do so.  Manufacturer ASML, is planning to create up to 524 new jobs.  The company currently employees 1,222 people. 

 

The company manufactures chips that power an array of electronics , communications and information technology products. 

 

The State Department of Economic and Community Development will provide up to $14 million in grants through the Governor's First Five Plus Program if the jobs are created over the next eight years. The company is also eligible to utilize up to $6 million in potential tax credits. 

 

ASML plans to add a parking garage, expand its manufacturing and engineering operations, and make interior renovations as part of a potentially $100 million project. 

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Newtown lawmaker calls for bipartisanship

Newtown State Representative Mitch Bolinsky participated in the Opening Day ceremonies as the General Assembly gaveled in for business yesterday.  He stressed the importance of a free, respectful exchange of ideas this session in order to create sound public policy for the future of the state. 

 

Bolinsky acknowledged that there will be disagreement on some issues, but told his colleagues that they should not be disagreeable.  He invited First Selectman Dan Rosenthal and Newtown Legislative Council Chair Paul Lundquist as his guests to the session's opening. 

 

The term is about three months, with adjournment scheduled for May 9th

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New Milford Police investigate cell phone theft

New Milford Police are looking for a woman who stole a cell phone left behind in a store restroom.  Police say a woman used the restroom at Walmart on Monday morning, around 9:30, and accidentally left her phone.  Shortly after, the suspect was caught on surveillance video going into the restroom, walking out and holding the cell phone in her hand. Anyone with information on the woman's identify is asked to contact New Milford Police at 860-355-3133.

 

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Local lawmaker tours Danbury manufacturing facility.

A local lawmaker recently took a tour of Stanley Black and Decker’s Engineered Fastening Manufacturing Facility in Danbury.  Representative Will Duff spoke with the company about what he could do in the General Assembly to make doing business in Connecticut easier and without any state burdens.  The facility has 200 employees.

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Sandy Hook Promise wraps up 'Start with Hello' week

Sandy Hook Promise is set to wrap up its third annual, national, Start With Hello Call-to-Action Week.  The program for schools and community group empowers children and adults to create an inclusive community, by reaching out to those who may be socially isolated.  Start With Hello is delivered at no cost  by Sandy Hook Promise to schools and organizations.

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Appeal filed with Siting Council over Candlewood Mountain proposal

An appeal is being filed with the Connecticut Siting Council over their ruling to allow Ameresco's 20-megawatt solar farm on Candlewood Mountain in New Milford to go forward.  The appeal comes from Rescue Candlewood Mountain, formed by a group of New Milford residents, and Candlelight Farms Airport.  The Town of New Milford is not filing an appeal.  The company plans to install about 60,000 solar panels to send power to the New England electric grid through the Rocky River substation.

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Ridgefield planners approve affordable housing apartments at Schlumberger site

The Ridgefield Planning and Zoning Commission has approved an application for 8 additional apartments at a mixed-use storage facility and apartment building at the Schlumberger site.  It's the first application submitted under recently-passed affordable housing regulations.  The second floor was originally slated for storage units, but will now include 16 apartments, five of which will be designated as affordable.  Developers are now offered incentives if they comply with local zoning rules instead of using the state 8-30g statute.

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City fights fired officer's demand for reinstatement

DANBURY, Conn. (AP) A Connecticut city is appealing an arbitration panel's finding that a police officer should not have been fired in 2013 for berating an immigrant during a traffic stop.

Former Danbury police officer Christopher Belair was fired after video surfaced of him using profanities while threatening to beat a driver and telling him to leave the country.

The News-Times reports that the arbitration panel called Belair's behavior ``outrageous and disturbing,'' but found the city did not have just cause to fire him. The panel said a 90-day suspension would have been more appropriate.

Belair was charged after the confrontation but was acquitted in 2015 of third-degree assault and threatening.

Neither Belair nor his lawyer could be reached for comment, but Belair previously said he still wanted to help people.

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Small earthquake rattles some residents in Putnam County

NEW YORK (AP) Some communities north of New York City have been rattled by a magnitude 2.2 earthquake.

The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake registered at 6:14 a.m. Wednesday in the Lake Mohegan area of New York.

Some residents of Westchester and Putnam counties posted on social media about the quake. There were no immediate reports of injuries or damage.

Lake Mohegan is about 50 miles (80 kilometers) north of New York City.

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Flu shot clinics to be held this weekend

The state Department of Public Health has asked local health departments to hold flu shot clinics to slow the spread of the illness.  The Greater Danbury Public Health Departments and District will host clinics on Saturday from 9am to noon. 

 

The Bethel VNA Office on Stony Hill Road will administer free/low-cost influenza vaccines to children 6 months to 18 years old and to adults.  Vaccines administered to children 18 years and younger will be free, provided by the Connecticut Vaccine Program. 

 

As of January 27th, over 2,996 Connecticut residents have tested positive for the flu this season, and 1,154 have been hospitalized with the illness. There have also been 52 flu-related deaths so far this season.

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OTB proposal pulled as Sportech parent company negotiates sale

Plans for an off-track betting facility in Danbury were put on hold last night, just before the City Council was slated to vote on approval. Mayor Mark Boughton announced before their meeting that Sportech Venues pulled their application to locate a paramutual betting facility at Two Steps.

 

Sportech notified city officials that their parent company started negotiating its sale after last week's public hearing and all pending locations are on hold. The company called it a combination of market uncertainty and unfortunate timing.

 

The UK-based business said in a letter to the Council that they hope to work with Danbury in the near future.

 

Sportech has exclusive licensing rights in the state and Danbury would have been their 17th location in Connecticut. The state legislature approved a bill last past session allowing Sportech to have 24 off-track betting licenses throughout Connecticut. 

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Greater Danbury area towns to receive school security grants

Connecticut has approved an additional round of school security grants.  $10 million will be used to enhance security infrastructure at 182 public and private schools in 51 municipalities. 

 

Two Danbury schools will use $125,272, split evenly between the state and city funding.  Kent's school is getting $102,281, matched with local funding.  Ridgefield will spend $2,200 of local funding to bolster a $736 grant for one school. 

 

The funds were approved under a program created in 2013 as part of a broad legislative package focusing on gun violence prevention, mental health, and school security issues in response to the shooting at Sandy Hook School.

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Danbury wins $450,000 grant in 'Working Cities Challenge'

Danbury is among five Connecticut municipalities to win the Reserve Bank's Working Cities Challenge.  The competition encouraged applicants to improve the lives of low- and moderate-income residents.  12-percent of Danbury residents live below the federal poverty level, despite the unemployment rate being 4.2 percent. 

 

Danbury will use a multiyear grant of $450,000 to reduce the number of immigrants and people of color who are in poverty by 30 percent within 10 years.  

 

Danbury is one of the most diverse in the state of Connecticut, with 45-percent of residents speaking a language other than English.  Connecticut Voices for Children reports that the cost of childcare between 2009 and 2017 rose by 5 percent while real wages fell by 10 percent during the same period.

 

Phase One of the plan will focus on building trust among diverse cultures in Danbury by creating language acquisition programs and increasing access to affordable, quality childcare.  Phase Two will help participants move into job and educational training programs to improve economic self-sufficiency. 

 

A grant presentation will be made to the 5 municipalities this afternoon.

 

The Working Cities Challenge, launched in 2013 in Massachusetts, builds on Boston Fed research that identified cross-sector collaboration and leadership as the key ingredients in resurgent smaller cities across the country. The Working Cities Challenge in Connecticut builds upon the success of the initiative in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

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Ecuadorian citizen living in Danbury fails to register as sex offender

An Ecuadorian man recently living in Danbury has been indicted for violating the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act and for illegally reentering the country.  The U.S. Attorney's office reports that 39-year old Enrique Fajardo Marin pleaded not guilty yesterday. 

 

Fajardo was convicted in Danbury Superior Court of illegal sexual contact with a minor in 2011.  At that time, he was sentenced to 18 years in prison, suspended after 10 years. He was also required to register as a sex offender. 

 

In 2016, Fajardo was deported, but was arrested last June in Massachusetts.  The U.S. Attorney's Office says he was living in the Danbury area as early as last May and failed to register as a sex offender in Connecticut.

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State lawmakers react to Gov. Malloy's budget proposals

Danbury Senator Michael McLachlan says Governor Malloy's tax and budget proposals show that he has tunnel vision when it comes to Connecticut's fiscal problems.  He likened the proposals to Groundhogs Day because they include cuts to the Medicare Savings Plan, which lawmakers just restored.  

 

McLachlan noted that balancing the budget won’t be easy, and there will be hard choices, but he says trying to squeeze more money out of an overtaxed populous didn’t work before and won't work now. 

 

Wilton Senator Toni Boucher called the Governor's proposals the same old policies, and added that everything old is not new again.  If it didn’t work before, she questioned why anyone would think it will work now.  Boucher says Governor Malloy's policies and ideas have only gotten Connecticut deeper into fiscal crisis. 

 

She said Malloy can try to dress it up more, put on brighter lipstick, but underneath – it’s still a pig. 

 

The state budget approved in October incldued the creation of a Commission on Fiscal Stability and Economic Growth.  Most of its members are top executives of major corporations, professional firms, and nonprofits.  Redding State Representative Adam Dunsby says he is usually skeptical of study groups, but is impressed so far by the commission.  Their final analysis report is due to the legislature on March 1st.

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Kent state lawmaker hosts regional traffic safety meeting

Kent State Representative Brian Ohler hosted a Regional Traffic Safety Meeting yesterday.  He says as a local First Responder, he is aware of the recent uptick in motor vehicle accidents and pedestrian vs. vehicle incidents.  First Selectmen from towns in his district were able to share their concerns with representatives from Connecticut State Police nd the Department of Transportation. 

 

He says there were many similarities among the towns including existing speed limits, an increase in road lighting and signage, and overall road layout and design. 

 

Ohler plans to hold another meeting to create an action plan that will address the issues and mitigate identified risks, in an effort to reduce the number of accidents.  Several roads were targeted for discussion including Route 7, Route 41, Route 44, Route 63, Route 112, Route 126, Route 341, and South Kent Road.

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Greater Danbury area towns named safest in Conn.

The National Council for Home Safety and Security has released their ranking of the Safest Cities in Connecticut for 2018.  Connecticut ranks as one of the safest states in the nation, based on population, reports of violent crimes and property crimes.  The data was pulled from  the FBI's Uniform Crime Report.  The top five5 municipalities in the state according to the ranking are Weston, Ridgefield, Newtown, Wilton, and Monroe.

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19 impaired drivers cited during Super Bowl weekend enforcement

19 impaired drivers were cited by New York State Police in the Putnam County region during Superbowl weekend. 

 

On Friday, 39-year ol Shivashankar Prasad of Mahopac was involved in a property damage motor vehicle collision on Interstate 684 in Harrison.  32-year old Henry Estuardo of Dover was stopped in Southeast for a vehicle and traffic law violation. 

 

On Saturday, 23-year old Stephanie Scully of New Fairfield and 23-year old Jose Genao of Waterbury were each stopped for a vehicle and traffic law violations on Interstate 84 in Southeast.  24-year old Andres Medina of Danbury was stopped for a vehicle and traffic law violation on Interstate 684 in North Castle.

 

On Sunday, 49-year old Christopher Brown of Morristown, NJ, 37-year old David Cochran of Bronx, NY, and 29-year old Jaime Fabian of Bridgeport, CT were stopped for a vehicle and traffic law violations on State Route 22 in Southeast.  24-year old Barry McShaw of Danbury was stopped for a vehicle and traffic law violation on Interstate 84 in Southeast.

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Brookfield officials to start budget review process

Brookfield First Selectman Steve Dunn will begin reviewing and evaluating town department requests this month as he gets set to kick off the budget process for the coming year.  The Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance will hold a joint meeting to listen to the Board of Education's proposal at 7 pm at the Brookfield High School Media Center. 

 

A $43.2 million budget has been proposed by the Brookfield Board of Education.  It's a 5.7 percent increase.  Another high school science teacher, kindergarten teacher and English language learners teacher will be added to the employment rolls.  

 

Some non-teaching positions will be cut, in part to cover a nearly 3-percent increase in special eduction expenses.  A high school monitor, administrator, and part-time clerical worker positions would be eliminated. 

 

A school start time study and the middle-school mobile world language lab would be put off.  

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Danbury City Council to vote on OTB proposal tonight

The Danbury City Council is set to formally approve a proposal for an off track betting facility from Sportech Venues in Two Steps. 

 

There would be a limit on the square footage.  Sportech officials say less than 20-percent of the building would be dedicated to wagering.  Types of gaming not specified in the contract is not allowed.  Relocation of the business requires a new approval.  Sportech would have to apply for and hold a City-authorized entertainment license. 

 

Sportech has exclusive licensing rights in Connecticut and Danbury would be their  17th location in the state.  The state legislature approved a bill this past session allowing Sportech to have eight more off-track betting licenses, for a total of 24 possible locations throughout Connecticut. 

 

The Danbury Zoning Commission signed off on the proposal last year, amending City ordinances to allow an off track betting facility as an accessory use in a restaurant. 

 

The City Council meeting is at 7:30pm at City Hall.

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Danbury firefighters now carry higher dosage NARCAN

Danbury firefighter take part in continuous education programs to meet EMS certification requirements and their most recent class dealt with the opioid epidemic. 

 

Officials say opioid overdoses are now the leading cause of death for U.S. residents under 50 years old, killing 64,000 people in 2017. 

 

They discussed the continuum of patient care, starting at the pre-hospital level. 

 

Danbury Fire Department First Responder units recently upgraded to more effective, higher dosage of NARCAN.  Fire officials say the greater concentration of the medication helps offset the respiratory system compromise caused by the overdose, leading to a more stable patient when the care of the patient is transferred to the Paramedic units.

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Daily parking space payment kiosk operational at Bethel Metro North station

Bethel Police are alerting residents that the newly expanded Bethel Metro-North Parking Lot is complete.  Each parking space in the Daily Parking area to the far left is numbered with signage. The payment kiosk is located along the walkway to the left of the train station.  The kiosk accepts coin, credit and debit cards.  A mobile app is in the works.  Enforcement is between the hours of 5 AM- 6 PM Monday through Friday.  Weekends and holidays are free to park. The fee for daily parking is 25-cents per hour.  Annual permit parking is $250 and can be obtained through the Town Clerk's Office at anytime.  The permit is pro-rated by $21 per month, beginning in February.

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Trial to start for Danbury man charged with assaulting 3-year old

A trial is slated to start today for a Danbury man charged with sexually assaulting a 3-year-old girl.  36-year old Rony Ortega was charged in March 2016 after police investigated claims he molested a relative in June 2015 at his home.  According to court documents, the child's mother noticed the her shorts were rolled down around the waist.  The girl reportedly told her mother that that Ortega pulled down her pants and touched her.  Ortega denied the encounter, but a DNA sample from the clothing was a partial match.

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Kent ice jam thaws, length cut in half

A significant thawing of the ice jam along the Housatonic River in Kent has become more noticeable, according to incident public information officer Brian Ohler.  The state Representative says temperatures over the past week, combined with some moderate precipitation, have allowed river water to push through the softening ice jam.  

 

An open water channel has grown and water is flowing freely through the ice jam itself. 

 

Ohler says it will still take a few more weeks of thawing before the jam moves entirely downstream.  The ice jam was two miles long, but now it's down to about a mile.  While there is no immediate threat of flash flooding and no inherent risks to neighboring homes, he says the local state of emergency will remain in place until the ice jam melts or moves out of Kent. 

 

Ohler says there have only been a few instances where people were told to leave flood prone areas or to step back from the ice jam.  He notes that the ice will become increasing unstable as it begins to break apart into smaller pieces and eventually flow downstream.

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Redding, Easton asked to sign off on school expenses

Redding and Easton's Boards of Finance are being asked to sign off on a $1.74 million central office budget approved by the three school boards.  Region 9 acts as its own finance board.  Officials say the nearly 6-percent increase is needed for employee salaries and to create a new position in the human resources department.

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Bethel to allow some food trucks at Meckauer Park

Bethel is now accepting applications for food trucks looking to be stations at Meckauer Park during the summer months.  The Board of Selectman approved the new permit at their meeting last month on the suggestion of the office of Economic Development and the Park and Recreation Commission.  Food trucks would be allowed, by permit, at Meckauer from 8am to 8pm from May through October.  A monthly $200 fee per truck will be collected by the town.  Vendors will also be required to have a food license and are not allowed to use loud speakers.  The Bethel Parks and Recreation Department will accept applications through March 2nd and a decision will be made by April 2nd.

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Bethel man charged in NY for Grand Larceny

A Bethel man has been arraigned in New York on a Grand Larceny charge.  Orangetown, New York Police say 59-year old Richard Farrah stole more than $50,000 from his employer.  He worked as an international sales associate at Dynarex Incorporation and is accused of falsifying orders to remove products without paying his company.  He the received payment on the products for his personal use.  Police say the investigation is ongoing and more charges could be filed.  Farrah was arraigned Wednesday.

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Man pleads guilty in New Milford home invasion case

A Bethel man has pleaded guilty to a home invasion charge for allegedly breaking into his his ex-girlfriend's home last June.  Mark Benoit reportedly appeared outside the New Milford house wearing a ski mask and carrying duct tape and a knife.  He fought with police and the woman’s new boyfriend.  Benoit has been held on bond since his arrest, and entered the plea on Friday.  Benoit is due back in court on April 27th for sentencing and faces a 10-year sentence with 10 years special probation.

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Danbury officials accept state grant to clean up brownfield site

There was a question at the Danbury City Council meeting last month about accepting  a $1.3 million state grant to demolish and remediate the former Mallory Hat Factory on Rose Hill Avenue.  The Council accepted the grant.

 

The 3.7-acre site will be given to the Women's Center of Greater Danbury for $1.  The organization plans to turn the property into a residential facility for women and children in transition.  

 

The question came up over $130,000 from the City, which the Council hadn't signed off on.  It was clarified that the money is the value of City services such as staff reviewing plans and overseeing elements of the project.

 

The Women's Center hired an environmental engineer to assess the property, and it was determined that the clean up will cost $700,00 to $800,000.  Public Works Director Antonio Iadarola will oversee and manage the clean up. Once it's certified for use, the City can transfer the property to the Women's Center.

 

The Women's Center raised $4 million in capital fund to build the transitional housing.  The group has provided a safe haven to victims of domestic and sexual violence since its founding in 1975. The Center serves 20,000 people in northern Fairfield and southern Litchfield Counties each year.

 

Governor Dannel Malloy says brownfield sites have been vacant for decades and cause blight in neighborhoods, drain local resources, and have a negative impact on municipalities.  For every dollar the state has invested in brownfield redevelopment, non-state partners have invested or will invest $11.41. Since 2012, the State of Connecticut has invested more than $220 million in brownfield redevelopment, resulting in the creation of more than 3,000 permanent jobs and over 15,000 construction jobs in the state.

 

Mayor Mark Boughton believes a viaduct under the property is near 100 years old.  He says no business is likely to be interested in the land because they wouldn't be able to build over that structure. The viaduct limits the build-ability to about 2.5 acres. Danbury issued several requests for proposals from businesses over the years, but there weren't any takers. At one point, the owner of nearby Fairfield Processing asked the City to hold off on looking into bids because they were thinking about expanding. Those plans have since changed because their business changed. 

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Brookfield firefighters put out chimney blaze

Brookfield firefighters put out a chimney fire Saturday night on Obtuse Road South.  Firefighters were able to extinguish and remove all of the burning debris from the chimney and fireplace.   The volunteer fire company took the incident as a chance to remind residents to have regular maintenance performed to keep their chimneys, fireplaces and vents clean and in good working condition, especially when they’re used often throughout the winter.

 

(Photo: BVFD Candlewood Company, Facebook)

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Potential sale of Brookfield-owned property up for hearing tonight

A public hearing has been scheduled in Brookfield tonight about the potential sale of a town-owned property on Junction Road.  The 2.3 acres belonged to the former chairman of the Conservation Commission. 

 

Proceeds could go toward preserving the Gurski Homestead. 

 

Paul Davis passed away 15 years ago and officials say stabilizing the farmhouse and restoring the barn on the historic site would be in keeping with his wishes. 

 

There is also $35,000 in the capital plan to help cover the cost of the improvements, required by the State Historic Preservation Office.  The Gurski master plan, which was approved last year, was ordered by the state after Brookfield tore down some dilapidated buildings without the state’s permission. 

 

The public hearing is scheduled for 7pm.  The town rented out the one-bedroom home on the property, but the tenant has moved out.

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Hearing in Brookfield on overnight parking ordinance revision

The Brookfield Board of Selectmen is holding a public hearing tonight about the town's parking ordinance.  Current ordinances limit parking between 2am and 6am to just an hour.  Revisions could include an exception to the overnight parking ban in certain parts of the Town Center District.  Brookfield Village came to an agreement with the town for 7 spaces.  The public hearing will be at 7:15 pm.

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Area police departments investigate skimming incidents

Skimming incidents in some Greater Danbury area towns are being investigated by police.  Redding Police received reports late last month of fraudulent debit card use at ATMs in Connecticut, New York and Virginia.  Police in Wilton and Ridgefield were also looking into similar crimes and the departments are working together.  They say it appears victims had their account information “skimmed” by an illegal device placed on machines where customers swipe their debit or credit cards, such as gas pumps.  Account information and PINs are then used by the criminal to create a fraudulent card.

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Wide ranging town hall meeting held by Newtown state delegation

Newtown legislators heard residents concerns and suggestions on a number of topics during a town hall meeting held on Monday.  Subjects ranged from job creation and state’s economy, to transportation and infrastructure needs.  Concerns about high taxes and  the state's real estate stagnation were also discussed.  

 

The Newtown delegation also heard about the need to stem the flow of people moving out of the state as a reaction-to and cause-of many of Connecticut's fiscal challenges.

 

Representative Mitch Bolinsky says the meeting will help guide his legislative efforts and influence his votes on committee proposals.  As a member of the Appropriations subcommittee working on the state budget, Bolinsky says he tries to fight for Newtown's needs and values. He also represents Newtown's interests on the Education Committee. 

 

Representative JP Sredzinski said this is a deeply uncertain time for Connecticut, especially when it's unknow whether the state will have sufficient revenue to fund current spending levels.  He wants to work to trim the size of government while also growing the tax base.

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New banners hang in the Four Corners area

New banners have been put up in the Four Corners area in Brookfield. 

 

There are five different versions decorating the streetscape on new lamp posts in the Town Center.  Project officials say four banners represent iconic images of Brookfield, including the windmill at Happy Landings, the Still River Greenway, the Brookfield Historical Museum and the Brookfield Craft Center.  The fifth banner is seasonal and currently has a snowflake collage on display. 

 

Brookfield artist Mark Eckstein volunteered his time to design the banners.  He's designing a spring/summer version reflecting the lake communities of Brookfield. 

 

(Photos: Brookfield Matters newsletter)

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Over $1k raised for Kent Food Bank this holiday season

Over $1,300 was raised this holiday season for the Kent Food Bank through a fundraiser backed by First Selectman Bruce Adams. 

 

He offered a package of four prints illustrating recipes that his wife created in 1984.  Holly Adams, now living in an assisted living facility, was a longtime art teacher at Housatonic Valley Regional High School.  Adams told the selectmen one print was hanging in the background of a scene in the movie “Tootsie.” 

 

The Kent First Selectman also noted that the town hosted another successful Santa Fund and Holiday Food Program. 17 Kent children received presents and 31 Kent families enjoyed a Christmas dinner thanks to the community's generosity. 

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Brookfield firefighters put out car fire at gas station

A vehicle fire at a Brookfield gas station was quickly extinguished Wednesday night.  Brookfield Volunteer Fire Department Candlewood Company responded to the Shell station at the Four Corners.  There were no reported injuries.  Firefighters were able to keep the incident from becoming much more serious. The cause of the fire is being investigated.

 

(Photo: BFVC)

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Boughton backs gambling expansion, skeptical of pot legalization

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton says if he is elected governor, he would support gambling expansion, including betting on sports.  Boughton told the Journal Inquirer Tuesday that he remains skeptical of legalizing recreational marijuana, but would not rule it out. 

 

Among his other proposals is elimination of the state Board of Regents of Higher Education.  In the past, he's called it a political dumping ground for people that can't find jobs in the private sector. 

 

Boughton was also critical of the salary and fringe benefits for UConn's president, which amounts to more than $794,000 per year, according to transparency.ct.gov.  He pointed to two houses and a driver as being offensive.

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Congressman introduces bill to recognize innovation

The U.S. House has passed the American Innovation $1 Coin Act introduced by 4th District Congressman Jim Himes.  Coins would be minted in recognition of American innovations from each of the 50 States, the District of Columbia, and U-S Territories. 

 

According to the U.S. Mint, a dollar coin costs less than $0.35 to make.  As a product for collectors, Himes notes that  the dollar coins sell for more than face value, creating nearly $1 in profit on every coin. 

 

A year-long introductory coin series bearing the resemblance of George Washington’s signature on the first patent will be the first to be commissioned. Four $1 coins will be then released each year over the next 14 years. State innovations will be chosen with input from state governors, territory executives, and the Commission of Fine Arts and the Citizens Coinage Advisory Committee.

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Work has started at the site of the new Newtown Community Center

Most of the bids for the Newtown Community Center project have been awarded.  The Public Building and Site Commission got an update at their meeting last month that the first concrete footings have also been poured.  Some bids did come in above expected budgeted amounts, so the architect and low bidders will meet to see if there are value engineering-material changes that can be made to lower the costs.  The project is expected to be completed September 2019.

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Local lawmaker speaks out against tolling

A local lawmaker is speaking out against the idea of tolling in Connecticut.  Danbury Representative Michael Ferguson says the proposal would severely harm area businesses and commuters.  He says many working families are already at their limit and would make living in this state much more expensive. 

 

Ferguson says the Governor lacks a concrete vision and plan for transportation.  While there is a state-wide list of projects, some of which are underway, he says there is no real priority list. 

 

Ferguson, a member of the Transportation Committee, doesn't believe new infrastructure, like the New Haven to Springfield Rail Line, should be built before existing rail, highway and bridges are repaired and upgraded.

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Brookfield official explains why Still River Greenway unplowed

Brookfield First Selectman Steve Dunn is answering some resident questions about why the Still River Greenway is not maintained during the winter months. 

 

He says the Greenway was designed and built so that it wouldn't be plowed, sanded or salted.  During development, people wanted the trail to be open in the winter for country skiing and snowshoeing.  Residents also said they didn't want to spend the money on manpower to clear the 2-mile trail of snow or ice. 

 

The trail was not designed for the weight of trucks to plow and salt.  If it was cleared, Dunn says the pavement and the more than 1,000 feet of wooden bridges could be damaged.  De-icing chemicals, which contain sodium chloride and calcium chloride, could adversely affect the adjacent river and sensitive habitats. 

 

The Grounds Department may keep some sections clear for maintenance purposes like tree work.

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New cafe opens at Danbury Library

A new cafe at Danbury Library, K’s Café, had a ribbon cutting and grand opening yesterday.  The café offers hot and cold sandwiches, soups, salads, coffee, and other beverages. 

 

Danbury Library has been searching for a partner to fill the space for a while.  The cafe space has been vacant for about two years, after the previous operator left to pursue other opportunities.

 

Owner and operator Kervin Francois has a degree in Culinary Art and Food Service Management and has worked in the food service industry for over 10 years, including for Sodexo. He proposed $500 a month rent to the City Council when the lease was considered last year.   

 

The Council approved a lease for Bagelman, but the company opted not to go forward with the project. The next proposal came from the owner of Nardellis on Newtown Road, but that also fell through.

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Newtown officials propose budget for coming fiscal year

Newtown officials are starting to craft a budget for the coming fiscal year.  The town side of the tax and spending plan would be about $41million, with some of the increase to pay for road repairs. 

 

The Board of Education discussed a $76 million budget last night.  It would include funding for more social workers, counselors and psychiatrists, while also cutting some teaching positions.  The district is projecting a continued decline in enrollment.

 

There would be a new position created, a purchasing agent who would work for both the town and the schools.  The employee would be tasked with finding efficiencies.  The overall budget is a 2.3 percent increase.  The Board of Selectmen plans to send their proposal to the Board of Finance later this month.  A public hearing will have to be held before the referendum this Spring.

 

While cuts in the two-year state budget are manageable, First Selectman Dan Rosenthal says the expectation should be that the state is not going to kick in additional revenue.  He wants the goal to be, over time, to create autonomy from the state.  But Rosenthal doesn't believe Newtown has the luxury of hiking taxes any further. 

 

Rosenthal wants to bring business planning to capital projects, examining how many people each project would reach compared to the potential revenue. 

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Redding pays settlement to estates of two killed in car vs. train crash

Redding has agreed to pay settlements to the estates of two people killed in a car versus train crash that happened in 2012.  The Newstimes reports that the estates of Wayne Balacky and Jausheema Perkins each received $15,000 from Redding.  The town disputed liability for the accident. 

 

The car was hit by a train headed southbound through the Long Ridge Road crossing, where there were no gates.  Metro North claims warning lights were active.  The gates were installed 4 months later. 

 

Balacky’s estate received $1 million from Metro North while Perkins’ estate was issued $475,000 from Metro-North last summer. 

 

Two other occupants of the car, who were injured but survived, were not publicly available.

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Court rejects request to reconsider school funding decision

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut's highest court has rejected a request to reconsider its ruling that the state's education funding system is constitutional.

The state Supreme Court turned down the request Wednesday in a one-page order that did not explain why. A coalition of cities, towns, parents and public school students that filed a lawsuit that led to the decision had asked for the reconsideration.

 

Danbury was a lead plaintiff in the case.

The court last month overturned a landmark 2016 ruling by a lower court judge who ordered officials to overhaul the state's public education system, saying a huge gap in test scores between students in rich and poor towns shows parts of the system are unconstitutional.

Leaders of the Connecticut Coalition for Justice in Education Funding said Thursday they plan to ask the legislature to take up the issue.

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Sandy Hook Promise supports bill to fund gun violence prevention programs

A bill has been introduced in Congress called the STOP School Violence Act.  Mark Barden of Sandy Hook Promise says he supports the measure aimed at giving states more funding to bring gun violence prevention efforts into schools.  He says it could help fund the organization's Know the Signs program, which trains students and adults to identify warning signs of gun violence and intervene before tragedies occur.  Barden's son Daniel was among the 20 first graders killed at Sandy Hook School in 2012.

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South Street School students take part in STEM workshop

An educator from the Eli Whitney Museum and Workshop in Hamden visited with students at South Street School in Danbury this week.  The students learned about electricity by building their own electric “city” during the STEM workshop.  About 70 fourth-graders took part. 

 

The entire third-grade class learned about force and motion by building rubber band cars and measuring their performance. The project offered insight into mechanics, measurement and math of motion. 

 

South Street school social worker Bryan Troiano raised the $2,000 for the workshop in about a week through a campaign on “Donors Choose,” a website that fundraises for educational purposes.  He noted that all of the projects meet Common Core standards and were a great way to incorporate then into the classroom.

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Lawmakers host food drive to benefit Bethel Community Food Pantry

Some local lawmakers are holding a food drive this month to benefit the Bethel Community Food Pantry.  The non-profit, community-based, volunteer-run food pantry in downtown Bethel provides free food and hygiene items to Bethel residents in need year around. 

 

Representatives Will Duff and Stephen Harding say even after the holidays, there are members of the community who need assistance.  

 

Boxes will be set out for food donations, Monday through the 26th, at Bethel Municipal Center and at the Library. 

 

People who are in-need can visit every other Tuesday and choose their own non-perishable food plus bread, fresh fruit and vegetables and, when available, meat and dairy products. The BCFP also offers items not covered by food stamps, such as toilet paper, shampoo, deodorant and laundry detergent.

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Brookfield officials to ask residents for appropriation for special eduction

The Brookfield Board of Finance will send residents a special appropriation request to cover a shortfall in the school budget.  Residents will decide at an upcoming town meeting if they want to allocate $470,500 to cover part of the cost of special education.  The money, if approved, will come from the former health instance provider dollars that would have otherwise been put into the fund balance.  The request is about half of the amount needed to place 12 students outside the district for services not offered in Brookfield.  The Board of Education will cover the balance through savings found elsewhere.

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Intersection realignment work to cause delays on Route 37 in Danbury

An intersection realignment project is starting soon in Danbury.  The state Department of Transportation has announced that construction activity will begin Monday on Route 37, between Stacey and Barnum Roads.  The project is aimed at increasing visibility.  Work includes adding a traffic signal at Stacey Road. Construction will be performed in four stages and not slated to wrap up until October 2019.  The DOT says drivers can expect delays on Route 37, Stacey Road, and Barnum Road between the hours of 9am and 3pm.  Mastrobattisto, Inc. was awarded that $4,023,059.25 contract in November.

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Southbury man sentenced for setting off pipe bomb in Woodbury

A Southbury man has been sentenced for setting off a pipe bomb in Woodbury.  34-year old Brian Fluman was ordered yesterday to 57 months in prison, followed by 3 years of supervised release.  Fluman built and detonated the explosive last April.  In June, investigators searched Fluman's Southbury home and seized 3 pipes with end caps, a fuse, electric blasting cap and a semi-automatic rifle.  He's been detained since his arrest.  Fluman's criminal history includes state felony convictions for larceny, burglary and narcotics possession.

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Woman arrested for alleged role in jewelry store robbery

Wilton Police have arrested a New York woman suspected of being involved in a theft from Campus Jewelers on River Road last October.  Police allege that 56-year old Yolanda Santa and two other women distracted the salespeople, while a man stole $21,000 worth of items from behind the counter. 

 

The three women then bought an item with cash before fleeing.  

 

Santa was arrested in Queens, New York as a fugitive from justice last month and was extradited to Connecticut yesterday.  She was charged with larceny and conspiracy to commit larceny.  Santa is being held on $100,000 bond and will be arraigned today. 

 

More arrests are expected.

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Man charged in sex trafficking ring rejects plea deal

A businessman alleged to be part of a Danbury-based sex trafficking ring has rejected a plea deal.  Court officials say 63-year old Bruce Bemer of Glastonbury opted for a jury trial. 

 

The deal would have allowed him to avoid prison time.  Bemer faces up to 30 years in prison. 

 

Bemer is accused of patronizing a prostitute and conspiracy to commit human trafficking. 

 

The ring was allegedly headed by Robert King of Danbury, and preyed on men with mental illnesses.  Police say the men were plied with drugs and money and delivered to wealthy clients to have sex for money after they had built up substantial drug debts.

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Two Danbury coaches recognized as National High School Coaches Association finalists

Two Danbury High School athletic coaches have been recognized as National High School Coaches Association finalists this year.  Jackie DiNardo, who leads the Hatters’ girls’ basketball team, and Kathy Boucher, who coaches the girls’ golf team, are one of eight coaches in their respective sports heading to South Dakota this summer for the award presentation. 

 

After coaching the team for more than 30 seasons, DiNardo has recorded more than 460 career-wins and had led the team to several FCIAC and state tournaments. The Hatters became one of three teams to win a triple championship under her guidance.

 

DiNardo was inducted into the Fairfield County Interscholastic Athletic Conference Hall of Fame in 2015. DiNardo is the administrator of the district’s REACH and Endeavor programs, an alternative program for at-risk students.

 

Boucher, a social studies teacher at DHS, started the girls’ golf as a club sport in 1998 and it became a varsity sport in 2003, winning the FCIAC and state championships in 2004 and 2005.  Boucher was the FCIAC Girls Golf Coach of the Year in 2015 and received an FCIAC Coach of Excellence Award in 2016.

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