Local Headlines Archives for 2019-01

Redding Police investigating car burglaries

The Town of Redding, like many other neighboring Fairfield County communities, has seen an increase over the past year in overnight burglaries of unlocked cars. Three such incidents were reported to Redding Police last week.  Police are reminding residents not to be an easy target and lock vehicles when unoccupied.  Any suspicious activity should be reported to the police department.

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Craft brew industry, supporters speaks out against proposed bill

There was a backlash from businesses over a proposal at the state capital, and now the bill has been pulled. 

Bethel Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan was among those opposed to a proposal legislation restricting brewers from selling both on location and wholesale to distributors/retailers.  Allie-Brennan says he was happy to hear the bill's author withdrew the measure form consideration after listening to concerns. 

Allie-Brennan says on of his goals is to stand with thriving businesses, like Broken Symmetry Gastro Brewery, owned by local residents.  He says supporting the engine that drives the growth in towns and the state is important.

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Celebration of life service of Ira Pollack planned in Bethel

Bethel Fire Department is hosting a celebration of life service of Ira Pollack on Saturday.  Pollack was a Bethel Highway Department employee, worked with the Danbury Railway Museums and made many other connections in the Greater Danbury area.  There is limited parking at Bethel Fire Headquarters on South Street, so people attending the service are asked to park at alternate location and take shuttle service, donated by HARTtransit.  Parking will be available at Rector Street, The Municipal Center, and Parloa field.  Family and older/less mobile guests will then be able to park at the fire department lot.  The ceremony is from 1 to 5pm.

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Ridgefield Animal Control offers reminder about pets and cold weather safety

As bitter cold sets in, Ridgefield Police are asking residents to keep in mind that not all dogs are comfortable or safe out in these temperatures.  Variables such as the dog's coat type, weight, age, and health are all factors to consider before letting your dog outside.  Once temperatures drop under 20°, all owners need to be aware that their dogs could potentially develop cold-associated health problems like hypothermia and frostbite.  If the dog is shivering, acting anxious, whining, slowing down, searching out warm locations or holding up one or more paws, Ridgefield's Animal Control Officer says it’s time to head inside.

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Online safety presentation to be held at DHS

Danbury High School is hosting an “Empowering Smart Online Choices” workshop next month.  The presentation from Scott Driscoll, an internet safety expert, is aimed at parents and will feature the latest online trends and potential dangers - and what to watch for with strategies to keep families safe in the digital age.  The workshop is on February 12th from 6:30pm to 8PM.  Childcare will be provided and requires registration.

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Danbury school unveils 'wellness' mural

Morris Street School in Danbury has unveiled the "Go! 5-2-1-0 Wellness" message through a mural in the cafeteria.  It's a reminder to Eat 5 fruits and vegetables daily; 2 hours or less of screen time; 1 hour of play every day and 0 intake of sugar-sweetened beverages.  This Wellness Message was initially adopted in 2011 with support from the United Way of Western Connecticut.  Regional YMCA Director of Community Wellness Maureen Farrell says the message has helped to decrease soda consumption in elementary school children and juice consumption with preschoolers The Anthem  Blue Cross and Blue Shield Foundation provided $25,000 in grant funding to spread the message.  To kick off a year of active living, children and families have taken a health pledge to eat more fruits and veggies, choose water first and put down the screens to go outside and play.

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Wilton officials host informational meeting about proposed school consolidation plan

The Wilton Republican Town Committee is hosting a non-partisan information session tonight on a proposal in the state General Assembly to consolidate school districts with fewer than 40,000 people. Wilton's district would merge with that of Norwalk.  Representative Gail Lavielle and Senator Will Haskell both oppose forced regionalization.  Tonight's information session is at 7pm at Trackside TeenCenter on Station Road in Wilton.

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Danbury starts talks to buy 110-year old First Congregational Church building

Danbury officials have gotten the ball rolling on negotiations to preserve First Congregational Church of Danbury.  The 110-year old building is across from City Hall.  The parish is facing declining parish membership and donations. 

Mayor Mark Boughton proposed using the space as a performing arts center, for offices or for classrooms. 

Early talks call for a nominal fee from the Church to the City, possibly $1 per year, so services could continue to be held there.  Corporation Counsel Les Pinter says the question of separation of church and state has been discussed in length, and will continue to be as the details are worked out.  Boughton says three parishes are using city buildings currently.  

Maintenance of the building, about $50,000 a year, would be turned over from the parish to the city for preservation.  He notes that the cell tower generates about $11,000 from leases to telecom companies, which could offset some of the cost. 

Councilman Paul Rotello says it's a great example of greek revival architecture and questioned why it doesn't have landmark status.  

Negotiations will continue for about a month.

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Newtown officials urge residents to check on pets, neighbors

Newtown’s Emergency Management Office urges residents to be prepared for severe cold weather to ensure personal safety and readiness. People are also reminded to take action to protect pets and are asked to check on any elderly or frail neighbors to be certain they are doing OK in this weather.  Several places will be open as warming centers for people to get out of the cold.  The Municipal Center at the Fairfield Hills campus will be open today from am to pm and tomorrow from am to pm.  The Library, senior center and Edmond Town Hall are open during normal hours.

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New Milford details shelter hours

New Milford officials are providing information about Warming Center and Shelter Coalition.  25 Church Street is open until 4:30pm.  Loaves n Fishes is open 4:30pm to 8pm the New Milford Shelter Coalition is open 8pm to 6am.   A brutally cold stretch of weather is impacting the state over the coming days and officials want to spread the word to the most vulnerable in the community that the conditions will become too dangerous to spend extended periods of time outdoors – shelters are available throughout the state.

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Town of Bethlehem enters settlement over ADA issues

A settlement has been reached between the Town of Bethlehem and the U-S Attorney's office to resolve accessibility issues.  There were allegations that Bethlehem’s Town Hall and Memorial Hall buildings were not operating in compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act.  Bethlehem is in the process of making changes to both facilities as required by the settlement, including improving the accessibility of entrances and access routes, increasing the number of accessible parking spaces and adding van accessible parking spaces, adding accessible features to restrooms, and providing accessible signage.  Bethlehem is also updating its policies and procedures to ensure access for individuals with disabilities to the Town Clerks’ Office, the Registrar of Voters, and the First Selectman’s Office.  Bethlehem will continue to make improvements and changes to enhance accessibility over the next 23 months.

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MA man charged for drug possession during routine traffic stop in NY

A Massachusetts man has been arrested on felony drug charges after a routine traffic stop.  New York State Troopers pulled a driver over on I-84 in Southeast on Sunday night for vehicle and traffic violations.  An investigation determined that 27-year old John Masland was in possession of MDMA, amphetamines, marijuana, and more than 250 grams of concentrated cannabis.  He was charged with 2 felony and 1 misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance and 1 count of possession of marijuana.  Masland was arraigned and released on bail for a Court appearance on February 12th.

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Proposed Ridgefield Winter Club gets first approvals

The Ridgefield Inland Wetlands Board recently approved plans for the proposed Ridgefield Winter Club.  The application was for a new drainage system, grading and paving work at 340 Peaceable Street.  A legal intervention filed by neighbors over vernal pools and a habitat for wood frogs was rejected.  The outdoor skating rink, clubhouse, and parking still requires other town approvals.  A special permit is needed from the Planning and Zoning Commission because the 6 acre property is located in a residential zone.  A permit application for 40-foot light poles has been withdrawn.

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Ridgefield Police seek entry level officer candidates

The Ridgefield Police Department is accepting applications for a full-time, entry level police officer. Applicants must be at least 21 years old. Veterans, women, and minorities are strongly encouraged to apply. The current labor contract includes a defined contribution pension plan. Potential candidates will be required to complete and successfully pass a written exam, physical agility test, peer interview, police commission interview, polygraph test, psychological examination, medical test, and a thorough background investigation.  The Ridgefield Police Department's tattoo and residency policies are listed on the department website.  Applications are due by March 22nd.

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Conn. State Police seeking identities of alleged shoplifting suspects

Connecticut State Police are asking for the public's help in identifying shoplifting suspects.  The Oxford Resident Trooper's Office is looking to identify a white male and female who on three separate occasions were seen on store surveillance video stealing baby formula and disposable razors from Market 32 grocery store in Oxford.

The unpaid items are valued at more than $1,100.  Their vehicle is an older model BMW with rear passenger side window damage. 

The incidents occurred on December 14th, January 9th and January 26th.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Trooper Vicki Donohoe at 860-888-4353. Calls can be made anonymously.

 

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School regionalization concepts raised in Conn. General Assembly draw concerns

They're just concepts at this point, but two ideas being floated in the Connecticut legislature have raised eyebrows in the Greater Danbury area.  Both would regionalize school districts.  Newtown Representative Mitch Bolinsky opposes the idea of requiring towns with less than 40,000 residents to combine.  He says district input and voluntary measures would be better, if this is the path forward.  He says school districts should not be forced to regionalize.

Only 24 of 169 municipalities in Connecticut have a population over the threshold.  Opponents argues there could be less time in the classroom and more time on the bus, especially in rural areas where proposed districts would be very large geographically.  They're also concerned that this could lead to dramatic increases in busing expenses.

Another bill has been submitted requiring any school district with a student population of fewer than 2,000 to join a new or an existing regional school district.  The Connecticut Council of Small Towns opposes forced consolidation noting that it would not result in significant cost savings and could result in a decrease in quality of education.

Wilton Representative Gail Lavielle says she ordinarily wouldn't question a concept, but this one has caused a level of distress she hasn't seen in her years as a state lawmaker.  She's concerned with not the reality of, but with the appearance of the concept.  Although ambiguous on many counts, she says it does talk of forced regionalization.

Wilton Senator Will Haskell opposes the proposals, which would require consolidation with Norwalk.  He says finding efficiencies in state spending is a priority, but doesn't believe this is an appropriate move. 

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UPDATED: Crash victims located down highway embankment, suffering hypothermia

The driver of a car that rollover during a crash on I-84 in Danbury late last night was allegedly intoxicated and had a suspended license.  The car's occupants weren't immediately located at the accident site, eastbound by exit 3.  The vehicle, 300 feet of guard rail, and a highway light pole were found by emergency responders severely damaged around 11:30pm.

Crews started searching the the woods and wetlands area along the highway, using Thermal Imaging Cameras, hand lights and scene lighting from Rescue 1. 

The first victim was located in a shallow depression about 75 yards from the scene of the accident.  The 33-year old New Haven man was helped to the roadside for treatment.  A second victim was found 25 to 30 yards from the first victim, in a pool of water with a minor head injury along with signs of moderate to severe hypothermia. 

The 29-year old Uncasville man was brought up the steep embankment and both were then transported to the hospital under advanced life support. 

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(Photo: DFD)

The driver, 33-year old William Torres of New Haven, admitted to Connecticut State Police Troopers to drinking.  Troopers report that he smelled of alcohol and had glossy/bloodshot eyes. Torres was issued a misdemeanor summons for driving under the influence, reckless driving, evading responsibility, and operating with a suspended license.  He is due in court on February 19th to answer the charges.

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Conn. manufacturer settles over whistle-blower allegations

A Connecticut manufacturer has settled Whistleblower allegations about the termination of two workers.  The U.S. Department of Labor says Watertown-based Eastern Awning Systems  and its owner Stephen Lukos agreed to pay $160,000 to two discharged employees who filed safety and health complaints with OSHA.  The investigation found that the employer unlawfully fired the pair over the complaints.  In addition to ordering alleged back pay, interest, emotional, and exemplary damages, the judgment says the employer must not discriminate against employees who exercise their rights. The judgment also requires the employer to provide neutral letters of reference for the two discharged employees, and to post the judgment and notice of employees’ rights prominently at the workplace.

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Danbury Library strategic plan envisions curbside pick up of holds, delivery to homebound, satellite book drops

The Danbury Library’s 2019-2024 Strategic Plan was recently approved by the Library Board of Directors.  The Board plans to expand programming and services into the community, beyond the library building. 

Library officials are looking to create a curbside location to pick up holds for library materials, explore methods to deliver materials to the homebound, and identify locations for satellite book drops, little free libraries, and shared collections.  This will help meet the goal of extending library services, to ensure that all City residents are able to use and enjoy library resources. 

The Board is looking into a process for online library card renewals, text alerts and creating a library app.  In order to expand on-site usage, Danbury Library staff are also looking to schedule more events at times that are convenient for working families and individuals. 

The Board also wants to create opportunities for human interaction lost by the self-check process.

They want to optimize the design of the current library space to ensure an inviting and accommodating environment for visitors.  The Junior Floor will be reconfigured to differentiate the children and teen areas.  Plans calls for creating quiet study areas, but also those that facilitate conversation and community gathering. 

Library staff want to find ways to host activities more frequently on the plaza and beautify library entrances and common points of access.

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High school students launch Bethel Runs on Kindness campaign

As part of a senior project at Bethel High School, some students are hoping to get adults involved in their good deeds. 

The 2nd annual BHS Kindness week is coming up next month and students are helping the Scotty Fund.  The local organization was started more than two decades ago in memory of 3-year old Scott Anderson, who lost his life to cancer.  Scotty’s brother, Brett, is a senior at BHS. 

Senior Audrey Garcia says the idea behind Kindness Week is to improve the school climate and to foster inclusion.  Students are selling Bethel Runs on Kindness t-shirts to raise money for the Scotty Fund and a number of local companies have already gotten on board.  Town employees have also been placing orders. 

Senior Anna Habeck says it’s a way to see kindness in action.  Senior Camryn Walsh says the t-shirts will be worn at the end of Kindness Week. Community members who order t-shirts are asked to wear them on Friday, February 15. 

Order forms and payment should be submitted to the Bethel High School main office by the end of the school day tomorrow. 

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New Fairfield schools update security measures for after-school entry

The New Fairfield School District has alerted parents to a new security measure for after school events at the middle and high school campuses.

Director of Operations Richard Sanzo says the safety of students, staff and community members while the buildings is of the utmost important and the district is looking to enhance existing security measures.  As of now, after-school access to New Fairfield High School and the middle school will be restricted to the main entrance of the high school. All other exterior doors, including those used to enter the gym and cafeteria lobby, will be locked.  Those attending sporting events will also be directed through the main doors of the high school and be required to check in with a security guard. 

Sanzo asked for cooperation and patience as they implement this new system.

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Danbury Pound gets donation from Brookfield animal hospital

Brookfield Animal Hospital has raised money for the Danbury pound.  Mayor Mark Boughton thanked Brookfield Animal Hospital veterinarians Dr. Boggart and Dr. Dattner for raising little more than $1,000. 

(Photo: DPD)

The City is in the process of redesigning the Animal Control Facility project, which has been through a number iterations.  He says they've nailed down a design, but need a several more hundred thousand dollars for the work. 

The facility was being used in conflict with modern zoning regulations, because it pre-dated the rules.  A zone change was approved.  The Animal Control Facility is located at 23 Plumtrees Road and is not a 24-hour facility. 

The Animal Control Division is an arm of Police Operations tasked with enforcing state and local ordinances regarding domestic animals.  They investigate reports of animal bites, roaming dogs, and animal cruelty complaints.

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Sand and salt mix available at Drop Off Center for New Fairfield residents

With more winter weather forecast for this week, New Fairfield residents are being reminded of the services offered by Public Works.  A Sand/Salt mixture is available to New Fairfield residents at the Drop Off Center.  People can fill two 5 gallon buckets with sand per storm, but must bring their own buckets and shovel. The Drop Off Center is open on Tuesdays and Saturdays from 8am until 3:45pm and on Thursday evenings from 4 to 7pm.  Mailboxes and posts that receive direct contact from snow removal equipment will be replaced with a standard mailbox and post.  The Public Works Superintendent will inspect the damage to determine if it happened through direct contact.  Cars should not be parked on Town roads during a storm so that the plows can clear all roads completely.

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Kent Social Services accepting appointments for heating assistance program

Kent Social Services is now accepting appointments for the Energy Assistance Program. This is a winter heating assistance program with specific income and asset requirements for participation. Maximum gross income guidelines are as follows: 1 person household is $35,116; 2 person households at $45,920; 3 person households $56,725 and 4 person households up to $67,530. Kent Social Services office is closed on Mondays, Tuesdays 9am to 5pm, Wednesday 9am to 12:30pm, Thursdays and Fridays 9am to 4pm.  The office is closed from 12:30pm to 1pm for lunch.  All appointments should be made in advance.  The early closing on Wednesdays is so that staff can complete administrative work.  No phone calls will be answered or returned Wednesday afternoons.

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New Fairfield Fire Marshal offers safety reminder about closing interior doors at night

The New Fairfield Fire Marshal's Office has a safety reminder for homeowners, following a morning fire yesterday at a home on Hudson Drive, about the importance of keeping bedroom doors closed while sleeping.  While the front of the bedroom door was severely damaged, because it was closed, the hollow core door protected the room and its contents. If this were an occupied bedroom, fire officials say the closed door could have saved a life. The cause and origin of the fire are under investigation and believed to be accidental in nature.  The homeowners and family dog were able to make it out of the house, though one person was transported to the hospital for evaluation.

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Proposal to allow motorcycles to ride between lanes raises concerns

A bill has been introduced in Connecticut that would allow motorcyclists to lane split, or ride between two lanes of traffic.  Redding First Selectman Julia Pemberton called it a bad idea which will result in more injury and possibly deaths to motorcyclists.  The stated goal of the proposal is to ease traffic congestion.  Lane splitting is illegal in all states, except California.

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Local lawmaker opposes school regionalization proposal

Consolidating school districts is the focus of two new bills pushing regionalization in smaller towns.  Very few municipalities in Connecticut have a population over the proposed exemption threshold. 

Another bill has been submitted requiring any school district with a student population of fewer than 2,000 to join a new or an existing regional school district.  Wilton Senator Will Haskell opposes the proposal, which would require consolidation with Norwalk.  He says finding efficiencies in state spending is a priority, but doesn't believe this is an appropriate move. 

The Connecticut Council of Small Towns opposes the proposal and says consolidation would not result in significant cost savings and could result in a decrease in quality of education.

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Car property tax proposal concerns local lawmakers

Proposals have been submitted by Senate President Martin Looney to end individual cities and towns ability to levy a car property tax and make it a uniform state car property tax.  Danbury Representative Bob Godfrey told Hearst Connecticut that if it does happen, the money should be put into the Special Transportation Fund, as a way to avoid bringing back tolls. 

But Godfrey remains concerned with the proposal, questioning if that would lead to local income taxes, local sales taxes or user fees.  

Newtown First Selectman Dan Rosenthal says real tax reform in Connecticut needs to be bipartisan, with towns and cities also having seats at the table. He says the proposals are more reshuffling than reform and would leave Newtown paying more.  Rosenthal added that more property taxes are not a solution to fix property taxes.

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Triathlon program by Sandy Hook family gets help to expand

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) A youth triathlon program founded by the family of a child killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting is expanding with the help of a national organization.

The Race4Chase training program is a free camp designed to promote healthy lifestyles by teaching kids how to swim, ride a bike and run.

It's run by the CMAK Foundation through local YMCAs. The foundation was set up in memory of Chase Kowalski, a 7-year-old who competed in his first triathlon months before the 2012 massacre.

Race4Chase announced this week that it's partnering with the USA Triathlon Foundation to help grow the project, with the goal of having Race4Chase triathlons nationwide.

The program expanded from three camps in 2013 to 27 sites this year in Connecticut, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Washington D.C.

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School construction crews to use old Bethel Police station as offices, parking lot

The construction company hired for the Rockwell and Johnson schools renovation and expansion projects have been approved to use the old Police Station building during the work. 

The Bethel Board of Selectmen recently signed off on allowing Rizzo Corporation to lease the facility and the land for $1 per year. 

There was a delay in the process from when the idea was first proposed.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker explained that lead was found from the firing range that had leeched through air handling system and settled in some of the offices.  OSHA required that the station be cleaned.  That work has since been done. 

Rizzo Corporation will take on lability for maintenance of the building, HVAC systems and utility costs.  Knickerbocker says it provides convenient parking area of employees and office space for the construction manager and subcontractors.

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Identity of man who many have with info on mall assault sought by Danbury Police

Danbury Police are looking to identify a man who may have information about an assault that occurred at the Mall on January 22.  The Department is asking the public to help identify the bald, white man caught on mall surveillance video.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Collins at 203-797-4667. 

 

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Bethel Police investigating identity theft case

Bethel Police are asking for help identifying a person  in relation to an ongoing identity theft investigation.  The Department posted surveillance photos of the man wanted in connection to incidents that happened on December 22nd.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Bethel Office Emerson at 203-744-7900 ext 688.

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New Fairfield family displaced by Sunday fire

A New Fairfield family has been displaced by a fire and one person had to be transported to the hospital for evaluation.  Firefighters responded to the Hudson Drive home yesterday morning and it took about half an hour to put out the flames in the rear of the house.  Putnam Lake Fire and Patterson Fire also responded as the volunteer companies remained on the scene to make sure all hot spots were out. The New Fairfield Fire Marshal's Office is investigating the cause.  The garage and kitchen area sustained the most damage.

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Air monitoring device installed in Kent ahead of Cricket Valley Power Plant opening

An advocacy group formed in opposition to a soon to be opened natural gas-fired power plant in Dover Plains, New York is making progress in their environmental protection quest.  Western Connecticut Clean Air Action is reporting that a new air quality monitoring station has been installed at Kent School.  The device will soon begin measuring three major air pollutants associated with natural gas combustion.  Several surrounding towns plan to install similar devices, which, together with the Kent School station, will form a regional air quality monitoring network.  The organization is working on the best means for sharing the air quality data.   Cricket Valley Energy Center is set to be operational in 2020.

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Newtown officials working on 2019-2020 budget proposal

Newtown officials are working on a budget for the coming fiscal year.  First Selectman Dan Rosenthal has released a nearly 300-page proposal.  The tax and spending plan would increase spending by 2.9 percent to about $42 million. Three Board of Selectmen meetings about the budget proposal have been scheduled this week and next.  The Newtown Board of Education budget proposal will also be discussed during public hearings.  A budget vote is set for April 23rd.

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United Way's pop-up mobile food pantry makes stop in Danbury today

The United Way is encouraging federal government employees impacted by the shutdown to take advantage of a Mobile Food Pantry, conducted in partnership with Connecticut Food Bank.  The “Pop-Up” Pantry today will be at Jericho Partnership, located at 44 Spring Street, Danbury from 11 am to noon. Mostly frozen food will be distributed at that event.  

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DAWS offers free pet food to federal employees impacted by gov't shutdown

The Danbury Animal Welfare Society is offering free pet food to federal workers during the government shutdown. Anyone in need of assistance feeding their pets can stop by the shelter on Grassy Plain Street in Bethel during regular business hours.  Those receiving the free food must show government ID.  

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Sherman Democratic Town Committee hosts freshman Senator today

The Sherman Democratic Town Committee is hosting a Community Conversation with State Senator Kushner today.  The event is from 1pm to 3pm at the Sherman Emergency Services Facility - Firehouse upper level Charter Hall.  Kushner is expected to talk about pending State Senate action on paid family leave, raising the minimum wage, tax reform, supporting quality schools, protecting the lake and Sherman’s air quality, and other issues.  There will be time for questions. 

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Kent state Rep. learns about struggles of farmers in Litchfield County

Kent State Representative Maria Horn attended a discussion with the Litchfield County Farm Bureau Thursday night. Among those in attendance were students from regional Future Farmers of America chapters.  Horn says she learned from the knowledgeable and innovative farmers of the region about the challenges they face. They also met with representatives from Congresswoman Jahana Hayes’s office to discuss the most critical needs facing local agriculture in light of the federal shutdown.

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Congresswoman weighs in on continued gov't shutdown

5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes is critical of remarks made by the president this week that furloughed government workers could go to their local grocery store and get credit because they know them and their families.  Hays says it's been her experience that when she goes to get groceries, the stores expect to be paid then and there.  She called his statement detached from reality and said more working class people are needed in elected offices. Hayes added that the people closest to the pain are closest to the solutions.

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Cause of fire at Puppy Love remains undetermined, not considered suspicious

The Danbury Fire Marshal's Office does not have a cause at this time for the blaze at the back of Puppy Love pet store on Lake Avenue. It is currently marked as undetermined, and not suspicious in nature.

86 dogs were rescued from the two-alarm blaze January 3rd. 

All dogs were safely evacuated thanks to residents and customers from nearby restaurants who entered the building.  The fire was in the back side of the building, not in the actual area where the dogs are kept, but rather in a pole barn owned by the utility company.  

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Heavy rain, freezing temperatures cause problems in Greater Danbury area towns

The heavy rains from yesterday resulted in the river overflowing onto Route 25 in Monroe. Despite efforts by the state DOT to put down sand, First Selectman Ken Kellogg says crews were unable to keep the road safe for travel because the water iced up. 

A temporary detour was put in place for the morning commute using Old Newtown Road.  Monroe Police put on extra officers to assist with traffic.  Kellogg called it a very frustrating situation, and plans to have further meetings with DOT on the issue. 

New Milford Mayor Pete Bass is keeping an eye on flood conditions along the Housatonic River in the Gaylordsville section of town.  At 5 o'clock this morning, the river was at 7.4 feet, while flood stage is 8 feet.  It's not expected to get below flood stage until after 7pm tomorrow.   The flood warning continues until late tomorrow night. 

At flood stage, water reaches the New Milford Foundry area and Young's Field Road. 

The unusually heavy rain also caused ponding and flooding in many low areas in Bethel, in yards and on roadways.  Town officials say the problem was made worse by the fact that the ground is frozen in most areas, which prevents the rain runoff from being absorbed as it normally would. 

The rain also caused flooding around Danbury, which prompted some road closures.  There were issues reported on Main Street in the area of Elmwood Park as well as around the Mall.

With the cold temperatures back in the forecast, officials cautioned drivers to watch for black ice on roadways.

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Area fire departments offer alternative heating source safety reminders

With the cold temperatures returning to the area, the Sherman Volunteer Fire Department is reminding residents to be extremely careful with alternative heat sources. 

Fireplace ashes must be disposed of properly. Ashes from a fireplace used the night before may have hot coals buried inside, which are capable of igniting a fire. 

Redding firefighters are urging people to use extreme caution when using space heaters because of the enormous electrical power needed to run them.  If you must use electric space heaters, plug them directly into a wall outlet. Always avoid using power strip outlets for high electrical drawing appliances like heaters, appliances and hair dryers.

The area immediately surrounding the heater must be free of combustibles.

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Bethel officials form committee to recommend holiday display guidelines

The Bethel Board of Selectmen has formed an advisory committee for P.T. Barnum Square holiday displays.  The Committee is made up of no more than ten people, all of whom volunteered ahead of the Selectmen's meeting.  7 or 8 people signed up and First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says he didn't want anyone to feel left out. 

This stems from an uproar over the decision to allow a new nativity scene and a holiday banner from an atheist group to be displayed at P.T. Barnum Square.  There is no written policy of regulations for displays, just a history of past practices. 

Temporary guidelines were adopted last year stating that a holiday display cannot defame or attack another religion or person, cannot be excessively large so that it hinders public safety, must be sponsored by local residents or organizations, be positive in nature and can be religious or secular. 

The committee will begin work immediately and be dissolve by June 1st. 

The Town Attorney will be tasked with coming up with a list of questions for the committee to address.  Those questions include if displays should be allowed there, how many and under what conditions would the property be considered too crowded.  They will also look into other venues and what those locations would be. 

Selectman Paul Szatkowski suggested the policy be similar to how the town operates Bennett Park.  Once a date is selected, it's confirmed for that period of time and no one else can reserve the spot. 

Selectman Rich Straiton doesn't think there should be any displays on public property.  The Board members joked that there was bipartisan support for not having political lawn signs be allowed on public property.  Straiton also raised safety concerned with the Christmas Tree lighting at P.T. Barnum Square.  He says people don't realize how big the fire truck is when everyone is crowded around.  He suggested getting a tree to plant on the municipal center lawn for future years.

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Sandy Hook memorial designers to come up with three options to fit budget constraints

The Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission held their first meeting of the year earlier this month.  Officials said that the soonest the project would be on the ballot will be in November, which would allow for a Spring groundbreaking. 

The gathering on the 10th was the first time the Commission has met since presenting the final design to the Newtown Board of Selectmen in September.  Members got a financial update.  In addition to the $250,000 appropriation, First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said there are some donated funds.  Newtown officials have also set aside $2 million each in year two and three of the Capital Improvement Plan. 

SWA design group will work on three options, based on those budget parameters, that will include key elements of the initial proposal.  The scaled options will be submitted in February.  The next meeting of the Commission is scheduled for March 14th.

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Conn. to consider regulations on satellite dish proliferation

Legislation has been proposed in Connecticut to form a task force to study the proliferation of satellite dishes on single and multifamily homes.  A similar bill previously passed in the state House, but was never called for a vote in the Senate.  The measure would require homeowners to remove an existing satellite dish each time a new one is put up.  A Danbury City Council committee was formed by Mayor Mark Boughton in August of 2016 to look into cracking down on satellite dish placement.  Boughton says it could be an indication of over-occupancy of residential properties, with no recognition of structural, safety and aesthetic integrity. 

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Brookfield officials start budget process

Brookfield municipal and school officials are working on a budget.  First Selectman Steve Dunn says his goal is to hold departments to an increase of no more than 2-percent.  The Brookfield Board of Education is seeking a 3.9 percent hike.  The $44.4 million spending plan was reduced from the Superintendent's original proposal by eliminating a consultant to study school start times and using money from this year's budget for a mobile world language lab at Whisconier Middle School.  Most of the increase is for contractual salary and benefit obligations.  The district is also looking to add four new teachers.  A tri-board meeting of Selectmen, Finance and Education is planned for February 5th.

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Bethel School propose budget for coming fiscal year

The Bethel School Superintendent has proposed a budget for the coming fiscal year with a 3.4 percent increase.  The $46.7 million dollar proposal accounts for a rise in enrollment, reductions in state funding and a new state graduation requirement that all students take a foreign language.  Coupled with the increase in students, is that there are more English-language learners, special eduction students and families eligible for free and reduced price lunch.  Bethel school officials also cited a concern of a lack of stability in state funding.  Budget workshops are scheduled for next week and early February.  A presentation will be made to the Boards of Selectmen and Finance at a February 21st meeting.

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Investigation finds nothing criminal in death of inmate

An investigation has been completed into the death of an inmate at Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown. 

31-year old Jallen Jones was reported to have deteriorating mental health difficulties on March 25, 2018.  Danbury State's Attorney Stephen Sedensky says Jones struggled with officers during a personal search during the process of moving him.  Mace and other forms of physical force to subdue the man didn't work so medication was administered in an attempt to calm Jones.  He then became unresponsive, was taken to the hospital and later pronounced dead. 

The incident was captured on video, which was reviewed. 

The Chief Medical Examiner says Jones’s death was ruled a homicide.  Sedensky determined that the man's death was not criminal in nature and closed the criminal investigation. 

Jones, who was from Atlanta, was serving a 10-year sentence for robbery.

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Car split in two during accident in Danbury

There was a serious accident on White Street in Danbury early this morning.  Around 2am, a crash was reported near the intersection with Triangle Street.  The vehicle reportedly hit a utility pole and a dumpster, split in half and then caught fire. The driver was ejected from the car and located with serious injuries.  No one else was found to be in the car at the time. The patient was transported to the emergency room.

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Brookfield firefighters have busy 24 hours

It has been a busy 24 hours for the Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company.  Firefighters responded to a smoke condition in a house on Route 25 from an overheated well pump Tuesday night, a minor structure fire on Long Meadow Hill Road early yesterday morning, and a vehicle fire last night on Federal Road.  The Department also hosted the Fairfield County Fire Chiefs Emergency Plan monthly meeting last night.  During the meeting, company officials made a presentation on the May 15th Macroburst and the large-scale mutual aid response that followed.

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Greater Danbury area towns ranked among safest in the state

The safest cities and towns in Connecticut have been ranked in a new study by The National Council for Home Safety and Security.  The organization looked at total violent crimes and property crimes, as well as crime rates.  The safest place in Connecticut was Madison, followed by Newtown, Ridgefield and Weston. New Canaan, Greenwich, Brookfield and Monroe round out the top eight.  Bethel came in at number 16, New Milford ranked 29th and Danbury was 56 on the list.

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Praxair Recognized as a Leader in Diversity & Inclusion by Bloomberg and Forbes

DANBURY, Conn.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Jan 24, 2019--Praxair, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of Linde plc, has been named to Bloomberg's 2019 Gender-Equality Index and Forbes' America's Best Employers for Diversity 2019 list, recognizing the company's strong commitment to diversity and inclusion.

This is the second consecutive year Praxair has been included on the Bloomberg GEI, which distinguishes companies committed to transparency in gender reporting and advancing women's equality.

Additionally, Forbesrecognized Praxair as one of America's Best Employers for Diversity. The list of 500 employers was based on an independent survey in which employees were asked to evaluate their own employers and others in the industry surrounding the topics of age, gender equality, ethnicity, disability, LGBTQ+ and general diversity. Other factors for consideration included diversity among top executive and board positions.

"These recognitions by Bloomberg, Forbes and other leading organizations are a testament to the value we place on operationalizing diversity and inclusion," noted David Strauss, vice president and chief human resources officer. "Praxair is committed to creating a work environment that respects, supports and values the unique contributions and ideas that all our employees bring to the workplace every day."

Praxair was recently included on Forbes' World's Best Employers and Mogul's Top 1,000 Companies with the Strongest Female Leaders in 2018 lists. More information about Praxair's external recognition can be found on the company's awards and recognition page.

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Electric equipment fire prompts road closure in Danbury

There was a small fire this morning in Danbury involving utility equipment.  The incident was reported on Old Ridgebury Road by The Reserve.  A transformer fell from the pole.  The equipment and fire blocked an entrance to the hotel.  Only about a dozen power outages were reported at the time, around 5am.  Old Ridgebury was closed as firefighters and Eversource responded to the scene.  Power was restored by 8am and the road reopened.

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New Milford Police Lt. back at work after independent investigation

New Milford Police Lt Larry Ash is back on the job after an independent investigation by an external agency.  Mayor Pete Bass says the case has been cleared and closed by that agency.  As a result, Ash was reinstated and is resuming his position as the Commander of Field Services.  The allegation that led to the investigation is still unknown.  Ash was placed on administrative leave this summer after a complaint was received through the New Milford Police Tips Line.  According to the press release, outside investigations are standard protocol for investigations on senior-level administration.   Ash has been with the department since 1987.

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Danbury Police caution residents to 'Social Security Agent' phone scam

In recent weeks the Danbury Police Department has seen an increase in victims reporting phone call scams.  In several instances, the victims were contacted by someone reporting to be a "Social Security Agent" and advised their Social Security Number were associated with criminal activity. The victims were then instructed to purchase gift cards or moneygram cards and provide the details to the caller in order to "re-secure" their Social Security Number. The victims were told they would be arrested or face other legal action if they fail to comply to the callers requests.  Danbury Police say this is a scam and people should not engage with these calls or provide any personal information to the caller.  Similar phone calls should be reported to the Office of the Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271 or online at https://oig.ssa.gov/report.

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Bethel Police Detective's daughter fighting rare blood cancer, fundraisers launched

Bethel Police Department recently learned that the 12 year old daughter of one of their Detectives has been diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer. 

Detective Frank O'Farrell has been with the Department for more than a decade and served in the Army Reserves for 25 years.  The Bronze Star recipient was deployed to Iraq twice and last year returned from a year-long deployment in Somalia, Africa.

In an effort to raise funds and awareness for Detective O'Farrell's daughter, Maddie, Bethel Police Department has partnered with the Scotty Fund and the veteran owned company Grunt Style to sell T-shirts. A portion of every shirt sold will go to the O'Farrell family to help pay for medical and other expenses.

 

The Bethel Police Department will also be hosting a Blood drive in honor of Maddie.  The Blood drive will be held on Monday, March 4th from 8am-1:15 at the Police Station Training Room on Judd Avenue.  For an appointment, visit redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767) and use Sponsor Code: BethelPD.

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Danbury looks to get a head start on Spring road maintenance

Danbury officials are looking to get ahead on road maintenance.  Mayor Mark Boughton says they've identified funding for paving to start early this year.  He's asked the City's Finance Director to go through other parts of the budget, now that the fiscal year is about half over, to see if there's any other pool of money to put toward roads.  He wants another $1 million or $2 million in funding so paving can start in March or April.  Boughton appointed an ad hoc committee to look at where the funding is coming from and to work with the Public Works Director on which roads.  The matter will return to the Council next month in action is required to move funding from one column of the budget to another.  Boughton says the weather has been good so far and he wants to get a jump on paving before the budget is approved for the coming fiscal year.

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Bethel residents approve funding for middle school chiller equipment

Bethel residents have approved spending up to $450,000 to replace  the chiller plant and water treatment equipment at Bethel Middle School.  About a dozen residents attended Tuesday's special town meeting.  The money would come from the the Fund Balance.  The Middle School was designed with very few windows and meant to have air conditioning.  The equipment did outlasted it's expected lifespan, but school officials say when it was very hot outside recently, the system would fail.  They are hoping to replace it before this summer. 

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Redding Police investigating fraud case

There's an open fraud investigation in Redding.  Police are looking for the public's help in identifying a person pictured in store surveillance photos.  The person is wearing the fur collared coat, hat and carrying the pink purse.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Redding Police at 203-938-3400.

(Photo: Redding Police)

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Special Town Meeting in New Fairfield on Economic Development Commission ordiance

A Special Town Meeting is being held in New Fairfield tomorrow about adopting an Ordinance establishing an Economic Development Commission.  The group would be responsible for the promotion and development of the economic resources of New Fairfield. 

First Selectman Pat Del Monaco says she has heard concerns from residents about empty storefronts in the center of Town and this group could investigate the conditions affecting current businesses and commerce in New Fairfield. 

The Commission would include residents with expertise in areas such as business, marketing, planning, real estate and finance.  The group could conduct public opinion surveys and then make recommendations to the Board of Selectmen of active steps to encourage businesses to locate in New Fairfield. 

140 municipalities of the 169 in Connecticut have established Economic Development Commissions. 

The town meeting is at 7pm in the Community Room. 

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Two big storms lead to high call volume for Sandy Hook firefighters in 2018

Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue finished 2018 with 703 calls recorded. That's the busiest year they've since 2011, when members responded to 850 calls for help.  Last year was a more than 52-percent increase in the number of calls responded to in 2017, when there were just 461.  Many of last year's calls came in March and May when two large storms pass through the area.  The company also had 21 training sessions, 65 work sessions, and 24 business meetings last year.

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Newtown Community Center looks to hire new employees

The Newtown Community Center has two job openings. 

The soon to be opened facility is looking to hire an This Aquatics Director, which will be a shared position with the Parks and Recreation Department. The Aquatics Director will be responsible for one year round facility and three seasonal facilities. The goal is to maintain safe and high quality services and programs including special events and growing community outreach.  Among the requirements are that applicants have current certification in American Red Cross Lifeguard Management, Lifeguard Instructor and First Aid/CPR for the Professional rescuer. 

The Community Center is also looking for a program coordinator.

The position will be responsible for implementation, development and operations of various innovative and multi-generational programs.  The Program Coordinator will also work on outreach strategies to engage and support the Newtown Community.  Whomever is hired will be required to work at least one evening shift a week as the Supervisor on Duty.  Weekend work is possible.  Among the requirements are that applicants have three or more years experience working with children and adults in an education or recreational environment. 

Applicants must have strong fiscal, organizational and managerial skills.

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United Way encourages gov't workers impacted by shutdown to attend Mobile Food Pantry

The United Way of Western Connecticut is encouraging federal employees who may be struggling to buy groceries and pay their bills to attend its monthly Mobile Food Pantry, which will be held today at Walnut Hill Church in Bethel. The pantry operates between 5:30pm and 6:30pm, and the doors open for clients at 4:30. 

The food pantry is less than 10 miles from the Danbury Federal Correctional Institution, where approximately 260 employees are working without pay as a result of the government shutdown.  United Way of Western Connecticut CEO Kim Morgan says money they might otherwise be spent at the grocery store can then be put toward rent, mortgage, or utilities. 

The Bethel Mobile Food Pantry is held every fourth Wednesday of the month.  The free, fresh food includes vegetables, fruits, and dairy.  Additional food will be stocked on the Mobile Food Pantry truck to accommodate those workers.  Attendees are encouraged to bring sturdy bags.

An additional Mobile Food Pantry is conducted on the first Wednesday of the month at Faith Church in New Milford. United Way funds these pantries in the evening to make them more accessible to working families.

The Mobile Food Pantry is conducted in partnership with Connecticut Food Bank, which is also sponsoring a “Pop-Up” Pantry this Saturday, January 26th, at Jericho Partnership, located at 44 Spring Street, Danbury. That pantry will be held from 11 am to noon. Mostly frozen food will be distributed at that event.

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State lawmakers pass bill allowing no-interest loans for federal employees working without pay

A bill has been signed into law in Connecticut allowing the state to back no-interest loans for federal workers working without pay during the ongoing shutdown.  The loans will be provided by banks or credit unions working with the state.  Impacted employees could get up to one month’s net pay, capped at $5,000.  Participating banks and the state will work with impacted employees to provide additional funds if the shutdown continues longer. 

15 House members and one in the Senate voted against the bill, saying Connecticut should not be in the business of backing loans for anyone. 

Danbury Senator Julie Kushner says it would be a mistake to characterize the bill as a bailout because the employees are guaranteed to get back pay, so there shouldn't be a default.  She says this is a critical time to assist people who are in need through no fault of their own.  She notes particularly with the cold snap and utility outages over the weekend, families didn't have the luxury of going to a hotel to escape the cold.

This was Ned Lamont's first bill to be signed into law as governor.  Lamont said he is proud that the first bill he signed into law has strong bipartisan support, was created through a collaboration with the state’s business community.

Approximately 1,500 federal employees in Connecticut are impacted by the partial government shutdown, with 260 at Danbury FCI alone. 

Only furloughed employees who are not allowed to work can file for unemployment while those working without pay are considered ineligible for benefits.

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Danbury City Council asked to sign off on help for furloughed federal employees

Danbury officials will take action to follow up on the state bill approved yesterday to help federal government workers.  Mayor Mark Boughton says that measure allows municipalities to establish a program to defer due dates for any affected federal government employee’s real and personal property or motor vehicle taxes, or water or sewer rates, charges or assessment payments. 

He will ask the City Council at their February meeting to assist the federal employees in Danbury.

Boughton says many Danbury residents who work for the federal government have already been affected by this shutdown and this law will provide a small measure of empathy for a situation that is not of their own making.

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Danbury man nearly hits Police Trooper during pursuit

A Danbury man who fled New York State Troopers as they tried to pull him over for speeding, eventually crashed his car in Danbury.  Troopers tried to stop 71-year old Angel Luis Guevares on Route 6 in Brewster Monday night, but he led police in pursuit.  When Gueveras eventually stopped at a traffic signal, he allegedly cursed at Troopers who approached the vehicle.  At the next light, the same thing happened, but he nearly hit a Trooper as he fled.  Guevares crashed into another car on Mill Plain Road and he was taken into custody by Troopers and Danbury Police.  The other driver was treated at the scene for minor injuries.  Guevares was held on bond on 8 related charges.

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Work begins to transform vacant building into new Newtown Police Station

An update has been given to the Newtown Police Commission on progress converting and expanding a vacant building into a new Police Station.  Surveyors and designers have been on the site nearly every day since closing on the 191 South Main Street property.  The Department of Public Works will trim trees to clear the site and remove furniture from the building.  The furniture from the former Taunton Press building will be stored on site, in trailers, for use by other departments. 

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State Department of Veteran Affairs Commissioner outlines priorities for 2019

There may be a new administration in place, but one of the hold over agency leaders is continuing efforts started under former Governor Malloy.  Commissioner of the Department of Veteran Affairs Tom Saadi says he has several priorities lined up.  The DVA is transitioning the chronic disease health care center into a skilled nursing facility with specialized units.  Once that's completed, the state can provide more hours of hands on clinical services to a greater number of veterans.  Saadi says this was something discussed for years but is just now moving forward.  He notes that it's part of overall modernization efforts.  The DVA is looking to improve and update its residential facility and programs there.  Saadi says they are are also working to expand capacity of the cemetery in Middletown and improve the appearance of the cemetery to honor those who are interred there with the respect they deserve. 

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Kent officials present streetscape project proposals

A public hearing in Kent last week drew a packed crowd to Town Hall to learn what the Streetscape Committee is proposing for Kent's sidewalks.  Each Committee member presented a piece of the information, including cost estimates and how to pay for the project. First Selectman Bruce Adams says the Power Point presentation created for the meeting is available on the Town of Kent's web site.

 

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Danbury firefighters union supports Danbury FCI workers during government shutdown

The Union representing Danbury Federal Correctional Institute employees is thanking the Danbury firefighters union for their support during the government shutdown.  Danbury Firefighters Union Local 801 provided lunch for all three shifts for approximately 265 staff members. FCI Danbury Union officials say it made them proud to be part of such a great community.  FCI employees are required to work during the shutdown, but are not getting paid.

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Hayes signs onto education measures as co-sponsor

One of the first bills that freshman 5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes has signed onto as a cosponsor is a measure to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965.  The 2016 National Teacher of the Year is supporting the bill which would require institutions of higher education to disclose hazing incidents. 

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Brookfield firefighters respond to numerous storm-related calls

The Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company responded to numerous emergencies over the past few days as a result of the winter weather.  Most of the calls were about trees on utility wires.  In one case, a downed wire entangled in a tree was blocking a driveway.  Several roads were partially blocked by downed tree limbs and wires as well.

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Bethel residents called on to approve funding for school chiller plant equipment

A special Town Meeting is being held in Bethel tonight for residents to weigh in on replacing the chiller plant and water treatment equipment at Bethel Middle School.  The money would come from the the Fund Balance. 

A consulting firm has completed a study of Berry School, started at the high school and moved onto the Middle School.  The Middle School was designed with very few windows and is meant to have air conditioning. 

Superintendent Dr. Christine Carver and Director of Fiscal Services Theresa Yonsky explained and shared information on the replacement of the chiller plant with the Board of Selectmen.  They say an air-cooled system would be less expensive than a water-cooled system.  The Board of Finance was asked to sign off on the bidding process, purchase and installation of chiller plant and water treatment equipment, not to exceed $450,000. 

The school officials were told the current equipment might not hold through the next warm season, which is part of the reason why the work is not being included in the budget for the coming fiscal year. 

Carver says it's not just about being comfortable, but what it does about the interior of the building and the possibility of mold developing.  She says there were a few days when the system went down.  At the beginning of the school year there were some especially hot days, and other districts cancelled classes.  The humidity levels built up so much that the building was raining in some spots and kids were slipping.

The meeting is at 7pm in Meeting Room A of the Municipal Center. 

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Danbury City Councilman to resign after 20 years

After 20 years representing Danbury's 4th ward on the City Council, Tom Saadi is stepping down.  The Council Minority leader will submit his resignation to the Mayor and the Council President at their February 5th meeting. 

Saadi often spoke at municipal land use meetings in opposition to developments and zone changes believed to be harmful to the neighborhood, including fighting against a proposed waste transfer station on Plumtrees Road.  Saadi, a Major in the Army Reserves, also fought for the Army Reserve Center in Danbury. 

Since 2017, Saadi has served as the Commissioner of the State Department of Veterans Affairs.  He says greater responsibilities as Commissioner and increased military obligations, combined family responsibilities, led to his decision. While calling it an honor to serve Danbury and its people over the years, Saadi said the time and energy necessary to properly serve the residents of the 4th Ward, while carrying out his duties to Veterans, to this county and to his family, made it tough. 

He added that he will miss serving on the Council.

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Sandy Hook firefighters respond to tree into home, CO alarm during storm

On Sunday, during a 16 hour stretch, Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire Department responded to 27 calls, all related to the winter storm that brought a small amount of snow but a lot of ice to the region.  All five of Newtown's companies were called on to respond to multiple calls for trees on wires, some of which led to road closures. 

There were no storm related injuries in any of the calls. 

Sandy Hook also responded to one call where a tree went into a house, and another call for a CO detector. In that latter call, the family evacuated to their car while firefighters ventilated the house. A faulty generator was moved away from the home , and the family was able to go back into their home once the machine was relocated.

Berkshire Road was closed in a few places, including at its intersections with Jordan Hill, Bennets Bridge/Grays Plan and HIgh Right. A tree that fell from the corner of Berkshire and Bennetts Bridge took down all wires and traffic lights in that intersection.

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Few remaining outages in Newtown from weekend storm

There are just a couple of remaining scattered outages in the Greater Danbury area from this weekend's storm.  Newtown First Selectman Dan Rosenthal says they are limited to single homes so complete restoration will take more time.  Eversource crews are working round the clock, when wind gusts allow for bucket trucks to safely operate.  The Newtown Municipal Center, located at Fairfield Hills will be open 8am to 8pm today as a warming station, charging location and has wifi available.  The Newtown Emergency Management Office reminded residents to avoid the use of candles due to the risk of fire if left unattended, not use outside cooking equipment inside and keep generator exhaust away from the house.

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Drivers, pedestrians cautioned that branches may continue to fall

Greater Danbury officials are cautioning drivers and pedestrians to use caution as limbs and trees may continue to fall because of the weight of the ice on them.  Most roads in the area are passable after the weekend storm, but black ice is a concern.  Eversource will have crews working throughout the day. They are prioritizing restoration to impact the largest number of customers as soon as possible.

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Brookfield firefighters put out chimney fire Saturday

Firefighters from both Brookfield companies responded to a report of a chimney fire in a home on Kellogg Street around 3pm Saturday. Firefighters were able to contain and extinguish a blaze that had spread to the home’s roof, keeping the incident from potentially becoming much worse. The cause of the fire is being investigated by the Brookfield Fire Marshal’s Office.

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Firefighters pull deer from partially frozen pond in Newtown

There was an animal rescue off Taunton Lake Road in Newtown Friday morning.  Firefighters responded to a call from a bus driver who said they thought a dog was on the ice, about 100 yards from shore.  Police reported that a deer had gone through the ice.  The Newtown Bee reports that a pair of Newtown Hook & Ladder firefighters, in cold water gear and tethered by ropes, went out onto the partially frozen pond to reach the deer. They pulled the animal from the water and bring it to shore.  Newtown Underwater Search And Rescue responded, with backup from Hawleyville and Dodgingtown fire companies and Newtown Animal Control.

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Plow fire reported on highway

There was a plow truck fire on the highway yesterday.  Danbury firefighters responded to the area between exits 8 and 9 eastbound around 7:15am.  A full size International Harvester commercial plow truck was fully engulfed in flames.  Several fire trucks responded while State Police and the state Department of Transportation provided traffic control and protection. No injuries were reported.

(Photo: DFD)

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Big power outages reported in Newtown, warming centers opened

The ice-encased tree limbs and utility wires were too heavy to hang on in some places in Newtown and during the height of the cold yesterday, there was about a quarter of the town without power.  Eversource focused on a large outage in the area of Route 34 that was responsible for about half of the reported outages.  There were 80 total outage locations reported yesterday throughout Newtown. 

Eversource said they have seen customers using aluminum ladders to remove ice from trees near power lines.  Officials caution against this dangerous activity. 

The Newtown Municipal Center, located at Fairfield Hills will be open today from 9am to 5pm as a Warming Station/Cell phone/electronic equipment charging and WiFi.  The Newtown Senior Center is open 9am to 5pm. 

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Danbury residents heed parking ban during weekend snow

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton says for the most part, people obeyed the Level 1 Snow Emergency parking ban on City streets.  Boughton says there wasn't a lot of traffic on the roads during the storm, which helped plow crews to clear the snow.  The concern today is the wind gusts.  Danbury officials are keeping an eye on the temperatures and the number of power outages to determine if warming centers will be needed today.  Some of the public spaces typically used by people to get out of the closed, including the Library, are closed for the Martin Luther King holiday.  In Danbury, anyone with a sidewalk in front of their home or business is supposed to shovel within four hours of daylight after the storm stops.  Area fire departments are asking that if people have a fire hydrant on their property or near by, that they make sure there is a clear path to the equipment in case of emergency.

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New Milford Public Works out in force during storm

New Milford Mayor Pete Bass says the Department of Public Works got out ahead of the storm to treat the roads.  But with temperatures well below freezing, many road surfaces are still icy and slippery.  The New Milford Public Works crews went out yesterday evening to continue treating and scraping the road system.  If residents do not have power, fire officials ask that the use of candles be avoided due to the risk of fire if left unattended.  Outside cooking equipment should not be used inside and generator exhaust should be kept away from a home or garage.  Officials ask that residents check on any elderly or frail neighbors to be certain they are doing OK.

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Ridgefield Police report at least one downed tree

Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi is reminding residents that sand is provided for residents, non-commercial, use.  The sand is in a pile directly across South Street from the Ridgefield Animal Control Center.  Ridgefield Emergency Management says anyone who doesn't have power, should call Eversource and not assume the company knows.  Outages can also be reported online.  Ridgefield Police reported at least one tree on wires yesterday.

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Danbury Police Officer spots porch fire, grabs extinguisher from patrol car

A Danbury Police Officer out on patrol Saturday afternoon spotted a fire on a second floor porch and went into action.  Officer Emilio Masella called the Fire Department and then used the fire extinguisher from his patrol car to slow the flames on Rose Hill Avenue.  Other Police Officers were able to alert the residents of the blaze.  Within minutes of getting the call, firefighters finished extinguishing the fire, and removed the occupants from the building. The Fire Marshals Office is investigating cause and origin of the fire.  No injuries were reported.

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Newtown Police to buy speed display signs for Toddy Hill Rd

Money has been earmarked in Newtown for two solar-powered electronic speed display signs to be located on Toddy Hill Road.  Police Chief James Viadero said during a recent Police Commission meeting that the funding was found for the devices to deter motorists from speeding.  Stepped up police patrols have been operating in the area, but now that it's winter, the current battery-powered portable speed display sign is in storage.

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Stabilization work continues on Octagon House in Danbury

Crews continue to make emergency repairs to the Octagon House in Danbury.  Construction Services worked with the City Engineer and Planner as NAC Industries re-mobilized and performed some additional work to the second floor fascia boards, requested by the architect.  The work has been completed and the scaffolding has been removed.  Public Works is fencing the property in to secure the building.

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Kent Parks & Rec Board has an opening

The Kent Park and Recreation Commission has an opening for a commission member to fill a three-year seat.  The commission meets the third Monday of the month at 7pm in Kent Town Hall.  The commission is charged with oversight of the Town’s recreational programs and two parks. Residents interested in being considered should submit their intention and background in writing to Kent Park and Recreation Commission, P.O. Box 678, Kent 06757 or email parkandrec@townofkentct.org.  

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Housatonic Habitat, Danbury use grant money to expand Senior Repair Program

Housatonic Habitat for Humanity and the City of Danbury are partnering to use grant money from the Older Americans Act to expand Habitat's Senior Repair Program.  The grant funding is from the Western Connecticut Area Agency on Aging.   The home repair and painting service, known as A Brush with Kindness, is aimed at helping senior homeowners with fixed incomes.  Danbury Director of Elderly Services Susan Tomanio says they will use the funding to serve about 20 seniors in the first year.  Her department will screen all inquiries and submit requests to Housatonic Habitat that meet selection criteria, which include financial need. The pilot program is geared to repairs such as interior painting, drywall, and light repairs to doors, windows and screens. Seniors must live in Danbury, Bethel, New Fairfield, Newtown, New Milford, Redding, Ridgefield, Sherman, or Brookfield to apply for the pilot program.

 

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Bethel Police schedule Coffee with a Cop event

The Bethel Police Department is hosting a Coffee with a Cop event next month.  The gathering  usually involves meeting at a neutral venue, but officials say they wanted to give the community a second chance at seeing the new building.  Coffee with a Cop will take place on February 9th from 9:30am to noon at their new headquarters on Judd Avenue.

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Bethel Public Utilities Director receives quote to replace pump 2 at Paul Street facility

The Bethel Public Utilities Director has received a quote to replace pump number 2 and the motor at Paul Street.  The quote was for $58,000.  Pump #2 is the worse of the three and the plan is to replace one a year over the next three years.  The Public Utilities Commission voted to accept the quote.  The Director also relayed to the Commission that Eversource Gas stated it is feasible to get gas to the Paul Street facility to replace the existing oil boiler with a hi-efficiency gas boiler. He is working with Eversource on the numbers and will need an easement.

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Danbury Police: Shooting victim was intended target, suspect at-large

A preliminary investigation has found that a shooting in Danbury yesterday afternoon was not random and that the victim was the intended target.  While the unknown shooter is still at large, Danbury Police say there is no indication that he poses an imminent threat to the general public.  The person who was shot in the arm sustained non-life threatening injuries.  The investigation is ongoing.  The incident happened in the area of Ellsworth Avenue near Danbury Hospital and Wooster Cemetery.  The suspect is described as a young man wearing a blue dew rag and black NorthFace backpack.  The incident prompted a brief lockdown of area schools and West Conn due to their proximity to the scene. 

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Danbury launches initiatives to help federal employees impacted by gov't shutdown

Several initiatives have been announced in Danbury to provide relief for federal employees and their families affected by the government shutdown.  A food donation drive at City Hall and at all Union Savings Bank branches will collect non-perishable food donations now through February 16th.  Gas station gift cards are also being collected and will be distributed through the Danbury Health Department. 

Among those impacted are the 260 employees at Danbury Federal Correctional Institution, who are working without pay.  There are 100 officers and the balance are doctors, nurses, teachers, and the warden. 

 

FCI Danbury Union President Drew Ueberroth says a lot of people are concerned about putting food on the table, paying their mortgage and having enough money to put gas in the tank to get to work.  Many are not coming in, making the tough decision on what is best for their families. 

Ueberroth says this shut down feels different than the 17-day shut down several years ago.  He says neither side is 100-percent right, both sides are wrong.  He believes someone else on each of the negotiating teams should be in the room to try to resolve the issue because it's affecting the public and the bigger picture.

If the shut down continues for a more prolonged period of time, Mayor Mark Boughton says SNAP benefits and other meal programs could slow payouts. 

There are more than 8,000 federal employees in the state of Connecticut, and an estimated 1,500 have been affected by the government shutdown.

Union Savings Bank is also offering a zero-interest 90 day loan, with 120 day maturity, for impacted workers.  The bank will do a credit check, but federal employees just need to provide two previous pay stubs to get cash within 24 hours, equal to five pay periods.

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New Milford seeks stricter permitting for proposed Candlewood Mountain solar project

The Town of New Milford has filed a petition with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection seeking a stricter permitting process for the proposed stormwater management plan of a controversial solar power operation on Candlewood Mountain.  The 20 megawatt project would be on a 163 acre site. 

The petition asks that a declaratory ruling prevent the project from proceeding.  New Milford is looking for a ruling requiring the developer to apply for an individual permit because of the potential adverse environmental impact.  The town cited a proposed 54 acres of deforestation. 

The petition is also asking for the comment period to be extended for 90 days.  In its filing, town officials say the proposed project may destroy the public trust in the natural resources of the state. 

An advocacy group, Rescue Candlewood Mountain, filed an administrative appeal of the Siting Council's ruling in favor of the project.  The trial of the appeal began on December 4th in New Britain Superior Court and is continuing.  In its appeal, the group argues that the project would cause the massive destruction of core forest and other adverse environmental impacts.

 

 

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Tree trimming to cause lane closures in New Fairfield Saturday

Tree removal work over the weekend will lead to lane closures in New Fairfield.  Despite the winter precipitation in the forecast, the state Department of Transportation plans to do tree removal on Route 37 on Saturday. Work hours will be 8am to 1pm.  Drivers should be aware that modifications or extensions may become necessary due to weather delays or other unforeseen conditions.  Motorists are advised to maintain a safe speed when driving in this vicinity.

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Hayes appointed to U.S. House Agriculture Committee

5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes has been appointed to serve on the House Committee on Agriculture. Hayes notes that the District is home to thriving cities as well as rolling hills and rural farming communities.  She says this committee will serve as a bridge between them and looks forward to being the voice of small family farmers, dairy farmers, conservationists, and all concerned with the future of agriculture and the protection of our waterways.  Hayes says another priority will be to ensure that food insecurity is not a reality for any family, by securing the future of food safety net programs like SNAP and school meal programs.

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Man charged for sending threatening letters to Sheriff, Judge

A Bronx man has been arrested for sending threatening letters to members of the Putnam County Sheriff's Department and others.  46-year-old Eugene Vitello was charged with several counts of Aggravated Harassment and Stalking. 

The letters first arrived in November with one addressed to Sheriff Robert Langley, the second time a letter threatening harm and criminal offenses against his family was received within a year.  A few weeks later, multiple letters were sent to the Cold Spring Police Department and the court.  Vitello was arrested there in 2013 for Stalking and Harassing a business owner and that Sheriff Langley, who was a retired Law Enforcement officer at the time, had been a witness in that matter which had been adjudicated in front of the threatened Judge.

Orders of Protections were issued for all affected parties and their family members.

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Freshman lawmaker launches online survey to find constituent priorities

A freshman state lawmaker has launched an online survey for residents in the 2nd House District, which includes parts of Bethel, Danbury, Redding and Newtown.  Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan says he wants to hear from constituents as the state faces many tough choices in the year ahead.  There is a series of issues that may come up during the session which people can click "Support" or "Oppose" so he can better represent the district at the State Capitol.  The issues are enacting family medical leave, increasing the minimum wage, legalizing recreational marijuana, tolls, sports bettering, expanding investment in renewable energy, allowing early voting and authorizing another casino, potentially for Bridgeport’s Steelpointe Harbor.  Allie-Brennan then included a list of issues, asking that people choose up to three of the most important, in order to find out about the most pressing issues facing constituents. 

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Lockdown at schools lifted as police search for shooting suspect near Danbury Hospital

One person was shot in Danbury this afternoon.  A person is being treated at Danbury Hospital after reportedly being shot in the arm in near the hospital.  Police are searching for a potentially armed person, last seen the area of Wooster Cemetery.  He is described as a young man wearing a blue dew rag and black NorthFace backpack.  This prompted a brief lockdown of area schools where children were in after-school programs at Ellsworth Avenue, Hayestown Avenue and Broadview Middle schools.  Western Connecticut State University’s midtown campus was on lockdown.  The precaution was  taken due to their proximity to the hospital.  No other details were immediately available.

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I-84 Danbury improvement proposal outlined in flipbooks

Organizers of a state DOT initiative to improve safety, increase capacity, and provide better access on I-84 between Exits 3 and 8 in Danbury have published new informational flipbook.  Some have been placed at local libraries and community gathering places for residents to look through. The information is also available online.

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Annual Town Meeting to be held in Kent tonight

The Annual Town Meeting in Kent is taking place tonight.  Following the meeting there will be a hearing to provide information on a proposed sidewalk project.  No vote is scheduled about the streetscape proposal, just information and a question and answer session.  First Selectman Bruce Adams says it's mostly a time for a hearing.  The annual town meeting is scheduled for 7pm.

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January is National Mentoring Month

January is National Mentoring Month.  Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southwestern Connecticut says their "Bigs" are being recognized as community builders.  The Mayors of Danbury, Bridgeport, and Milford and the Fairfield First Selectman have issued proclamations vowing to support the work mentors do.  The organization says that work can be life-changing and thanked the municipal officials for their support.

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4 men chain themselves to tractor, block equipment in protest of Cricket Valley Energy Center

Four men chained themselves to a tractor and blocked the transport of equipment from New Milford to New York early Wednesday morning.  It was a protest of the under construction Cricket Valley Energy Center.

Three farmers and an educator were arrested by Connecticut State Police for blocking the escort of a transformer to the power plant in Dover Plains.  The escort, moving turbines from Kimberly Clark along Route 55, came across a tractor perpendicular in the middle of the road. 

38-year old David Epstein of Albany, 38-year old Philip Erner of Wassaic, 52-year old Christopher Iversen of Kingston and 41-year old Benjamin Franklin Schwartz of Wassaic refused a request to unchain themselves and move the tractor. 

(Photos: CSP Iversen, Schwartz, Erner, Epstein)

Gaylordsville Fire Department responded to cut the chains. 

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Intentionally set fire at abandoned building on Southbury Training School campus under investigation

An intentionally set fire is being investigated by State Police.  Troop A was notified shortly before 6pm Tuesday that there was a fully involved fire at an abandoned building on the Southbury Training School property on Village Road.   A school employee saw the glow of the fire and called 911.  The Fire and Explosion Investigative Unit responded and determined that the blaze was intentionally set.  The Fire Marshal’s unit is investigating the cause and looking for anyone with information.  The Connecticut Arson Tip Award Program is offering a reward of up to 25-hundred dollars for information leading the arrest, conviction or prevention of arson fire.  The Arson Hotline is 1-800-8-4-ARSON.

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Local lawmakers get to work on Transportation Committee

The legislature's Transportation Committee has a lot of tough choices ahead this session.  They'll be working with a new DOT Commissioner, Joseph Giulietti, whose previous job was leading Metro North amid a series of crises.  The group held an organizational meeting this week.

Wilton Senator Will Haskell says he views that as a good sign for the direction of the agency.  In order to build a state that's exciting for young people and for businesses, Haskell says they have to think strategically about transportation.  His top priority on the committee is to improve Metro North, including the Danbury branch line.  Haskell's district includes Ridgefield, Redding and part of Bethel as well.

There will be a number of bills coming before the Committee this year which could have an impact on people's wallets.   Whether the group pursues tolling for trucks, tolling all vehicles or reducing the gas tax, members have their work cut out for them.  Among them is Danbury Senator Julie Kushner, who campaigned against tolls.  The freshman lawmaker is a recently retired union organizer who told colleagues that she's traveled to Hartford for the last 25 years on I-84 and has a pretty good understanding of the challenges facing the state.

Haskell and Kushner are two of the new faces on the Committee.  Wilton Representative Gail Laveille won reelection and held onto her committee assignment.  She wants to advocate for the issues important to Fairfield County.  One of the strongest advocates for tolls, former chairman Representative Antonio Guerrera, is no longer in the legislature. 

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New Fairfield to start revaluation process next week

Every five years, the State of Connecticut mandates towns perform a physical property revaluation, which includes physical inspections of each parcel of real estate.  New Fairfield officials say the purpose of the revaluation program is to develop accurate and uniform assessments based on market value as of October 1st. 

This should result in an equitable tax base throughout the town, distributed among New Fairfield taxpayers. 

Vision Government Solutions has been contracted by New Fairfield to assist in conducting this revaluation, under the supervision of the Town Assessor.  Vision employees will collect and analyze data on all properties in town, including both external and internal physical reviews, beginning on January 22.  

The employees will wear brightly colored inspection vests, carry photo identification and their cars will be registered with the New Fairfield Police Department and clearly marked “ASSESSOR’S OFFICE, POLICE DEPT. REGISTERED VEHICLE” and the Vision Government Solutions logo.

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New Milford ramps up search for new School Superintendent

An online survey is being launched by the New Milford Board of Education as the district looks for a new Superintendent.  The survey is available through the end of the month.  Community forums will be held next Wednesday January 23rd at 10am at New Milford Town Hall and at 7pm at Sarah Noble Intermediate School.  The PTO and booster groups, New Milford departments and officials and school staff will participate in separate forums next week.  A consulting firm specializing in recruiting and placing executive leadership will lead the forums.  All of the feedback from the forum and the online survey will be reviewed by the Board of Ed during their February 12th meeting. 

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Info mailer will be created in Brookfield ahead of school project referendum

A mailer will be created by Brookfield officials to inform residents of the proposed elementary school project.  The mailer will include the overall costs, costs per person and other details.  First Selectman Steve Dunn says they will review the document with legal counsel and it will also go through a review by the state.  He noted that it's illegal to advertise one way or another, using town money.  When a library project was proposed, the library raised private funds for a mailer, which Dunn says anyone can do.  The project includes constructing a building on the Huckleberry Hill campus, tearing down that school and transfer Center School students into the new building.  With anticipated state grant money, the project is pegged at $63.2 million.  A driveway, parking and ball fields would also be added.  The old Center School would be turned over to the town for municipal use. 

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Congressional Update: Hayes searches for Senate Leader, Himes teaches Twitter

A group of House Democratic freshmen, including 5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes, showed up to the Senate building yesterday to call on leadership there to bring bills to the floor for a vote.  The group of 30 members signed a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell urging him to allow votes on legislation to reopen the government. 

Meanwhile, 4th District Congressman Jim Himes will be one of the members leading a social media use session for members of his party.  Himes will discuss the most effective ways to engage constituents on Twitter and the importance of digital storytelling.  The representative for Ridgefield and towns south, often tweets out details about his downtime including clamming along the Sound and tapping trees to make maple syrup. 

Himes joked with his younger staffers that he can manage his own Twitter unless he's drank more than two beers, something they asked after a tweeting a haiku about the quiet car on the train ride between the district and DC.

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Wilton Police investigating school threat posted to social media

A social media post involving a possible school threat in Wilton was investigated by police yesterday.  The post contained a picture of juvenile male holding what appeared to be a firearm with a caption that read “Don’t come to school Monday.” 

Information from both New Canaan Police and the Facebook Law Enforcement Response Team identified a residence in Wilton that the post originated from.  No one at the home was identified as the male in the picture, but police determined he was a different Wilton resident.  Contact was made with the juvenile and his parents yesterday morning. 

Officers seized a BB gun, which was depicted in the post, as well as an air soft gun.  The juvenile male and parent have been cooperative with the investigation. 

Wilton Police say at no time did there appear to be a viable threat to the public or school community. The criminal investigation remains ongoing.  While police say there is no active threat to the public or school community, they increased their presence and visibility in the school areas.

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Bethel seeks to buy land to build water storage tank

The Bethel Board of Selectmen has approved purchase of land for construction of a water storage tank.  The Selectmen then sent the proposal to Planning and Zoning for their review and approval.  The lot is on Long Meadow Lane and the tank would be owned and maintained by the town.  The cost is estimated at $198,000. 

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Hayes appointed to U.S. House Education Committee

5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes has been appointed to serve on the House Education and Labor Committee.  Hayes says she looks forward to bringing an educator’s perspective to Congress.  She says the committee's work is vital, as the policies they set will filter out to every classroom and community in the country.  Hayes says she wants to bring academically sound, student-centered deliberation to the group's meetings, and help her colleagues better understand how the legislation that is passed translates in a classroom setting.  The 2016 National Teacher of the Year says she is optimistic the work will ensure that America’s youth are prepared to compete on a global stage for generations to come.

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Monroe changes budget referendum schedule

The Monroe budget referendum date has been moved to the first Tuesday in May from the first Tuesday in April.  The Town Council adopted the proposed change this week.  The decision was made to allow for more public participation and more due diligence, with fewer assumptions.  First Selectman Ken Kellogg says state aid is often better understood later in the process and actual medical insurance rates are not available until mid-April.  The date of the second referendum, if required, would be two weeks later, changed from three weeks from first referendum.

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DOT Maintenance Repair Facility proposed in Brookfield

A new repair facility is being planned by the state Department of Transportation on the site of the existing repair facility on Federal Road in Brookfield.  The existing building is functionally obsolete. 

The DOT Office of Engineering is developing plans for the construction of a 15,000 square-foot bay area and a 6,000 square-foot office area.  It will include operational areas for vehicle repair, a materials storage stockroom, private office areas, and supporting office spaces.

The existing repair facility will be converted to cold storage. Site improvements will be made as well, including removal of a cold storage building, motor fuel island, and underground tanks.  Plans also called for installation of motor fuel aboveground storage tanks, motor fuel island, new pavement where necessary, site drainage system improvements, and connection to utilities. 

The DOT is aiming to have designs done by September. The project will be state funded. 

If there's enough interest an informational meeting will be held, but a formal public hearing is not planned at this point.  Anyone interested in receiving information on this project may do so by contacting Mr. Michael J. Strong, Project Manager, at (860) 594-3306 or by e-mail at michael.strong@ct.gov and make reference to the Brookfield Repair Facility.

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Town Meeting scheduled in Bethel on funding for improvements at middle school

Bethel is looking for resident approval of equipment for one of the schools.  There is a special Town Meeting scheduled in Bethel for January 22nd.  Residents will be asked to approve up to $450,000 to replace the chiller plant and water treatment equipment at Bethel Middle School.  The money would come from the the Fund Balance.  The proposal has been approved by the Boards of Selectmen and Finance.  The meeting on the 22nd is at 7pm in Meeting Room A of the Municipal Center. 

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DEEP orders fencing installed at Tarrywile Park along spillway

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has issued a directive to Danbury for fencing to be installed in Tarrywile Park along the dam crest and spillway training walls. In a report to the City Council, the Public Works Department said there is also some concrete patching to take place on the vertical and crest horizontal faces of the dam.  Construction Services, using in house resources, completed the repair to the westerly dam crest and patched areas of the inboard face of the dam.  Working along with the Tarrywile Park Authority, officials say the project had a minimal impact on the parks day to day operations.  The Fencing Contractor will be installing the dam crest fencing.

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Referendum date set in Brookfield on proposed school project

A referendum date has been set in Brookfield for a vote on building a new elementary school. During a Town Meeting last night, residents agreed that a referendum should be held on March 5th.  With state grant money, the project to construct a building on the Huckleberry Hill campus, tear down that school and transfer Center School students into the new building, is pegged at $63.2 million.  A driveway, parking and ball fields would also be added.  The old Center School would be turned over to the town for municipal use. 

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Danbury FCI inmate sentenced for weapon possession

An inmate at Danbury Federal Correctional Institution has been sentenced to additional time in prison for possession of contraband.  41-year old John Faucher was sentenced Monday to a year and a day for having an object designed or intended to be used as a weapon.  The New Hampshire man is currently serving a 46-month sentence at Danbury FCI for robbing a bank in October 2016 and attempting to rob a convenience store in September 2016.   He was scheduled for release in February 2020. He allegedly fashioned a weapon while working in the prison’s facilities department.  The metal rod was bent at one end for a handle and sharpened into a point at the other end and authorities say meant to be traded for drugs.

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Danbury Democrat nominated to fill vacancy on Board of Ed

The Danbury Democratic Town Committee has nominated Kate Conetta to replace Democrat Kathleen Molinaro on the Board of Ed.  Molinaro resigned after more than a decade with the group to spend more time home for family health reasons.  The term runs through November.  Conetta, whose son attends Henry Abbott Tech, is the only candidate for the position so far, ahead of the application deadline today.  This is the 3rd vacancy on the Danbury Board of Ed since the 2017 election. 

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UPDATE: Stubborn attic fire at deli reported in Danbury overnight

There was a three-alarm fire in Danbury last night.  Several people called 911 shortly before midnight about smoke coming from a one-story commercial building on Lake Avenue near Hobson Street. 

Fire officials say the stubborn fire in the attic space of Marcello’s Deli and Catering produced heavy smoke. 

Mutual aid from Bethel, Brookfield and Ridgefield Fire Departments along with help from Danbury Police, Danbury Hospital EMS, and Danbury Emergency Management was called in.  Crews battled the frigid temperatures for a few hours until the situation was deemed under control. 

(Photo: DFD)

Danbury Public Works responded to the scene to assist with icing conditions.

There was no one at the deli at the time of the incident. No injuries were reported and the Danbury Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the cause, which is undetermined at this time.

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Fire in commercial building in Danbury overnight

There was a three-alarm blaze in Danbury last night on Lake Avenue.  The fire broke out in a one-story commercial building near Hobson Street.  There were flames reported coming from the roof of Marcello's Catering and Deli when firefighters arrived.  There was heavy smoke seen in the area shortly before midnight. Mutual aid was provided by Bethel, Brookfield, and Ridgefield.  No other details were immediately available.

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Meeting in Brookfield tonight to set referendum date on school project

There is a Town Meeting in Brookfield tonight for residents to set a referendum date on a school project.  The meeting is at 7pm in the Brookfield High School auditorium.  The town is asking residents to vote on $78.1 million for the planning, design and construction of a new elementary school for pre-k through 5th grade students, including an early childhood learning center. 

Some state grant money would offset the cost, bringing the bonded amount down to about $63.2 million.  If approved at the Town Meeting, a referendum will be held on March 5th from 6am to 8pm. 

If approved at referendum, a new building would be constructed on the back field the current Huckleberry Hill Elementary School campus, with Center School students moving into Huckleberry.  A driveway, parking and ball fields would also be added.  The old building would be demolished and Center School will be turned over to the town for municipal use. 

Construction could begin in 2020 and take almost two years.  

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Informational meeting in Sherman about crime prevention

The Sherman Resident State Trooper is hosting a public information session tonight.  LT Bartolotta will present information about how to be better prepared to handle emergency situations.  Topics include identity theft and information about phone and computer scams that target the elderly, and Crime Prevention and Education--specifically crimes involving larcenies from motor vehicles and protecting belongings.  The Residents State Trooper will also talk about drug education, how to detect if a family member is using opioids, how police respond to an overdose, as well as addiction services available in Connecticut.  There will be time for a question and answer session after the presentation.  The event will be held from 7 to 8pm at Sherman Volunteer Fire Department.

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Donations made to Danbury homeless shelter for operational expenses

The City-run homeless shelter in Danbury is benefiting from two donations.  Global Jet Capital is paying little more than $8,400 for 11 bunk bed frames, 22 mattresses and two ladders.  A recreational hockey league donated $3,500 toward operational expenses at the shelter for food, cleaning products and for general upkeep.  Health Department officials say the Old Crabe Hockey League's support will allow the shelter to provide a clean, warm and safe place to the most vulnerable population in the community. 

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Democrat to officially kick off Danbury Mayoral campaign Thursday

An official campaign kick off event is being held Thursday night for Danbury Democrat Chris Setaro.  He is looking for a 2001 rematch against Mark Boughton for the Mayoral seat.  Setaro is hosting the event at the Amber Room on Thursday from 5:30pm to 8pm.  He has raised $25,000 in donations to his campaign in the two weeks since he announced his candidacy from 51 donors.  According to campaign finance statements, only one third came from Danbury residents.  Setaro was the candidate in 2001 when Boughton claimed his first victory for the position, by just 138 votes. 

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Route 7 closure overnight for transformer transportation

The state Department of Transportation has changed the date for the second of three planned closures of Route 7 in New Milford to move an oversized load.  A transformer was supposed to be moved to Cricket Valley Energy Center in Dover Plains, New York earlier this month, but the DOT rescheduled the move to overnight tonight into tomorrow.  The roving closure between Picket District Road and Route 55 will happen between 8:30pm and the early morning hours.

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New Milford officials approve alarm ordinance

The New Milford Town Council has adopted an Alarms ordinance.  The measure is aimed at cutting down on false alarms through system maintenance, fines and liens.  A group will be appointed by the Mayor's office to oversee the fire false alarms and another to deal with false burglar alarms.  The fine for two false alarms would be $50, $100 for the next and $150 for four or more false alarms in a year.  There was a suggested “suspension-of-response” penalty for unpaid fines, but that was changed to a lien placed on the property instead.  The ordinance also includes a $200 fine for any property bringing New Milford to Court to obtain a search warrant, if it gets to that point, so the fire marshal can inspect it.

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Freshman lawmaker introduces bills to eliminate business entity tax, crack down on puppy mills

A bill to eliminate Connecticut’s $250 business entity tax has been introduced by a freshman lawmaker.  Bethel state Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan campaigned on the promise of making Connecticut a friendlier place for business and says the tax is a prime example of how red tape is hurting small businesses. 

He has introduced a bill to prohibit the sale of puppies and kittens raised under inhumane conditions.  Allie-Brennan says the target is controversial breeding facilities known as puppy mills or kitten factories, which often operate with little or no oversight.  He says the legislation will prevent people from unknowingly supporting a cruel industry. 

He says the overcrowded breeding farms have unsanitary conditions, inadequate food, water, and veterinary care. Allie-Brennan’s legislation would prohibit the sale of pets raised under these conditions.

The 2nd District includes parts of Danbury, Redding, and Newtown as well. 

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Water Witch House Co. in New Milford signs contracts for two new trucks

Water Witch Hose Company of New Milford has signed contracts for two new trucks, which the volunteer firefighters hope to have in service by the end of the year.  The new tower 25 will replace a 1989 Aerial Cat which has served New Milford for 30 years. Water Witch Hose applied for the 2017 FEMA assistance for firefighters grant, which was awarded in July.  The over $900,000 is funding the majority of the $1.2 million apparatus.  The balance was funded by the town of New Milford.  The new Engine 27 will replace a 1992 freight-liner. The smaller, conventional style cab and short wheelbase will allow firefighters easier access to rural back roads and tighter neighborhoods.

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Sherman firefighters detail 2018 calls for service

Sherman Volunteer Fire Department has issued a year end report.  2018 marked the first year that the department responded to over 400 calls.  Of the 405 calls, there were 207 for just EMS services.  156 calls were fire only, 4 were public service calls while the balance were fire and EMS combined.  Sherman firefighters thanked the community for their generous support over the year, including monetary donations or goods and services for this years Fireman's Ball.

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Standoff in Brookfield with crossbow-armed man ends peacefully

There was a stand off in Brookfield Friday night between police and a man armed with a crossbow.  Brookfield Police received a call from a Nicole's Court couple that their 25-year old son was suicidal and had left the house to buy drugs. 

While officers were out looking for the man, he returned home and his parents called 911 again.  The parents tried to get him medical help, but he shot their tire with a crossbow and went into the house

He refused to come out.  Contact was attempted by police via the phone and loudspeaker.  Eventually a K9 team entered the house, but found it empty.  Danbury Police Emergency Services Unit, New Milford and Newtown Police also responded. 

A drone was used to make aerial observations while officer, using infrared cameras, searched the nearby woods. 

The man was found about 5 hours after the initial call, shoeless and suffering from prolonged exposure to the cold.  He was taken into protective custody and transported to the hospital for medical evaluation and treatment.  The incident remains under investigation.

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New Fairfield residents reject proposed blight ordinance

New Fairfield residents have narrowly rejected a proposed blight ordinance.  The vote on Saturday was 671 opposed, 633 in support.  First Selectman Pat Del Monaco says that although she is disappointed with the result, she is pleased that over 1,300 people were engaged and voted.  She says the proposal was fair and would have been a cost effective solution.  Del Monaco says they will continue to explore ways to address blighted properties in New Fairfield. 

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Boat destroyed in New Milford fire

A boat fire damaged a nearby house in New Milford on Friday.  Water Witch House Company responded to Carmen Hill Road and called in mutual aid from Brookfield to help put out the large blaze, involving a boat and a shed.  There was also damage to the siding of the house at that location.  Brookfield units operated for one hour before being returned to service.

(Photo: Brookfield Vol. Fire Dept.)

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Newtown Police administer Narcan to unresponsive driver

Newtown Police are being credited with saving a man's life.  A car at a stop sign for 20 minutes late Thursday night raised concerns of neighbors, who thought it was suspicious.  Newtown Police were dispatched  to the intersection of Cedar Hill Road and Bari Drive and found a man in his early 20s slumped over and unresponsive.  Officers suspecting a possible drug overdose broke the vehicle’s window and administered Narcan to the man.  He was taken to the hospital for further evaluation and the incident remains under investigation.

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Danbury Police mourn loss of retired K9

The Danbury Police K-9 Unit is mourning the passing of K9 Koda, who retired in 2017.  Koda joined the Danbury Police Department in 2011 and was partnered with Detective Travis Kupchok, patrolling for six years.  Koda retired due to a brain tumor.  He was trained to sniff out drugs and was credited with a number of narcotics arrests.  Koda came to the Danbury Police Department through a $10,000 grant from Don LaJoie, a former Danbury Race arena driver and small business owner.

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Danbury officials looking to revive old rail line into NY

Some Danbury officials are considering ways to make the train ride to New York City quicker.  Part of a recently completed Transit Oriented Development study identified a need to create a hub in Danbury that would get rail passengers where they need to go in less time. 

Right now the ride takes about two to two and a half hours, and sometimes requires Danbury branch customers to switch to the main New Haven line in South Norwalk. 

There's an old rail line that goes from Danbury to Brewster, and City officials want to see if there's a way to connect passengers to the Southeast station.  Right now, many Connecticut residents drive to Southeast and take the hour and 20 minute train ride to Manhattan. 

In order to make the rail project come to fruition, there would have to be cooperation from Putnam County officials. 

The two governmental entities have been looking into shared serve agreements to lower the cost of doing business for residents of the neighboring towns.  One idea under consideration is to extend the sewer line into Brewster along the Route 6 corridor so the area can be developed.  While some City Council members are concerned that the move would create more competition for City businesses, Public Works Director Antonio Iadarola says the gesture could make Putnam County officials more amenable to the train proposal.

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Sandy Hook families can have access to InfoWars' financials

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut judge has ruled that families of the victims killed in the Sandy Hook school shooting can review the financial documents of the conspiracy theory site Infowars that called the shooting a hoax.

Six Newtown families filed a lawsuit in April against Infowars publisher and owner Alex Jones, accusing him of subjecting them to harassment and death threats from his followers. A judge on Friday granted the families' discovery requests, allowing them to access the website's internal marketing and financial documents.

The plaintiffs include the parents of four of the children killed at the Newtown school in 2012. Also suing are relatives of two slain educators.

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New Fairfield residents to vote on proposed blight ordinance

There's a vote scheduled in New Fairfield today on a blight ordinance.  The proposed law provides special considerations for those who are elderly, disabled or low income and unable to complete repairs on their own. It also requires a written complaint, an investigation, a hearing, and a plan including a timeline for remediation before any action can taken by the Town.  The vote is from noon to 8pm at Meeting House Hill School.

Any building, structure or parcel of land, …in which at least one of the following conditions exists:

A. It is dilapidated or becoming dilapidated as documented by the Building Official. (Dilapidated is defined as any building or structure or part thereof which is deemed an unsafe structure or which is designated as unfit for human habitation by the Building Official or Director of Health.)

B. It is dilapidated and attracting illegal activity as documented by the Police Department.

C. It is dilapidated and is a fire hazard as determined by the Fire Marshal or as documented by the Fire Department.

D. It is determined by the Blight Prevention Board, the Building Official, the Fire Marshal or by the Director of the Health that the condition of the building, structure or parcel of land poses a serious or imminent danger to the safety, health or general welfare of the community.

E. It is not being adequately maintained. Factors that may be considered in determining whether it is not being adequately maintained include but are not limited to:

1) More than one missing, broken, or boarded windows or doors.
2) Collapsing or missing walls, roof, or floors.
3) Damaged, missing siding, exceeding 25 percent of the surface area of the structure.
4) A structurally faulty foundation.
5) Garbage or trash stored on the premises in excess of 30 days.
6) More than one motor vehicle that is inoperable for more than 120 days or not registered with the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles pursuant to the Connecticut General Statutes, including C.G.S. § 14-12 et seq., including cars, trucks, boats, motor homes, camp trailers, campers and motorcycles; boats or other inoperable machinery on the premises visible from the street or any adjoining property. This paragraph shall not apply to “permitted uses” as determined by Town of New Fairfield Zoning Regulations.
7) Rodent harborage and/or infestation.
8. Unrepaired external fire damage.
9) Parking lots and building lots left in a state of disrepair or abandonment for more than 120 days.

Properties exempted from the definition of blighted premises include:
A. Any building or structure undergoing active remodeling, restoration, repair, or renovation, provided that the blighted condition will be corrected thereby and that the period thereof will not exceed one year from the date of receipt by the Blight Prevention Board of a written complaint.
B. Farms defined as follows: A lot consisting of three or more acres classified as farm land by the Town of New Fairfield Assessor pursuant to Public Act 490.

Special consideration may be given to those who require it in order to correct a violation of the ordinance and who establish “good cause” which includes, but is not limited to, an elderly individual who is unable to personally correct a violation due to his or her age; a disabled individual who is unable to personally correct a violation due to his or her disability; a low-income individual who is unable to correct a violation due to cost; or an exempt property as defined above. In determining whether good cause exists, the Blight Prevention Board shall consider whether other occupants of the premises are able to assist in correcting the violation in a timely fashion and whether the severity of the violation is such that additional time is not warranted.

The Ordinance establishes a Blight Prevention Board made up of five members who shall be appointed by the First Selectman with the consent of the Board of Selectmen. The Board shall be made up of the Fire Marshal, Health Director, Building Official, Zoning Enforcement Officer and one member of the public at large, serving for a term of three (3) years, commencing upon the date when such member is appointed. The Board shall oversee the review and enforcement process which includes an investigation of any written complaint of blighted premises, a written notice to the property owner or occupant, a hearing within 14 to 30 days of the complaint, and a written notice of determination. If the Board determines that a violation of the Ordinance does exist, a Notice of Violation will be issued stating the violation and the date upon which the violation shall be remedied. Violations that are not remedied by the prescribed date, the owner/occupant shall be subject to fines and a citation. If the owner fails to remedy the violation, the Town may remediate the cause of the violation at the expense of the owner.

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Conn. Senate President jokes that annual 'Opening Day neck tie' older than new member

There was a sense of optimism and excitement on the first day of the 2019 Connecticut General Assembly session earlier this week, despite the fiscal challenges facing the state.  During opening remarks, Senate President Martin Looney joked that when he put on his tie in the morning, he realized it was more than three years older than Senator Will Haskell.  Looney has worn the same opening-day tie each year he’s been in office.  The 22-year old Haskell represents the 26th District of Redding, Ridgefield, Wilton and part of Bethel.  In delivering his remarks to the senate, Haskell said he looks forward to learning from the older members of the group, including Looney’s tie.

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Pop-up Food Pantry in Danbury today

The Pop-Up Pantry of the Connecticut Food Bank will be in Danbury today.  Jericho Partnership on Spring Street is hosting the surplus food distribution from 11am to noon.  The Pop-Up Pantry is open to anyone in need of assistance and will include fresh produce, perishable dairy, frozen turkeys, and frozen vegetables. The Connecticut Food Bank Mobile Pantry helps address food deserts and transportation barriers. 

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Ridgefield Police Lt to be promoted to Captain

The Ridgefield Police Department is promoting Lt. Shawn Platt to the position of Captain.  A ceremony will be held on January 17th at 10am at The Lounsbury House. The public is invited to attend.  Platt will command the Ridgefield Police Department Division of Professional Standards. He will oversee training, accreditation, the school resource officer program, DARE, and public information.

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Suspected church roof fire turned out to be steam, back-lighting

There was a reported fire at a church in Brookfield last night, but it turned out to be an optical illusion. Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company responded to First Assembly of God Church on Junction Road.  Firefighters found the reported roof fire was actually steam from a heating unit combined with lights from utility work being done on the Federal Road side.  Firefighters were on scene for about 20 minutes.

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Bethel Navy JROTC to collect Christmas trees tomorrow

The annual Bethel High School Navy JROTC Christmas tree pick up will be held Saturday January 12th.  Bethel residents can support the Navy JRTOC with a $10 donation, which will go toward Educational Programs for the cadets.  The high schoolers will pick up trees to be recycled, mulched and taken to a local farm.  Participating residents are being asked to leave trees out by 9am because trucks will be out picking them up between 9am and noon.  The snow date is Sunday from noon to 3pm.  Any Bethel residents interested in helping the cadets should E-mail BETHELNJROTCBOOSTERS@GMAIL.COM or after 6pm call 203-794-8600 Ext. 1101, and leave a message with your Name, Address & Phone #.  Participants can make checks out to “Bethel NJROTC Boosters” and leave in an envelope taped inside a storm door or other accessible area.

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Woman stabbed in face after accidentally hitting car at gas station

A woman accidentally hit a car at a Danbury gas pump, and the passenger in that vehicle then stabbed the driver in the face. 

Danbury Police responded to Food Bag on West Street yesterday and found a woman inside with slash wounds to her right eye, face and hand. 

The victim had been seated in her car, with the door closed, when a passenger in the vehicle she accidentally hit approached her.  Rosa Iris Tolentino-Reyes allegedly took a knife the victim pulled out to fend off the assault and slashed her.  Reyes was charged with assault and breach of peace.

The victim was transported to Yale New Haven Hospital for specialized care. of what was described as a serious eye injury requiring immediate surgery.

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Danbury man charged for alleged drug sales

A Danbury man has been charged with drug related offenses.  Two others were issued infractions yesterday as police investigated neighbor complains into illegal drug sales.  The investigation around the Eden Drive housing complex began weeks ago.  Danbury Police set up surveillance of 21-year old Dennis Jordan Ordonez-Ramos and his Woodside Avenue Ext. apartment. 

They witnessed a sale and stopped the driver, who was found with marijuana.  When Police later stopped Ordonez-Ramos, a person with him also was in possession of pot he had just purchased. 

During a search of the man's home, investigators seized a substantial quantity of marijuana, packaging material and drug paraphernalia.  He was charged and held on bond.

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New Fairfield First Selectman addresses skepticism on need for blight ordinance

New Fairfield First Selectman Pat Del Monaco is looking to bring some clarity to the type of issues the town hopes to address with the anti-blight ordinance up for a vote tomorrow.  Over the past week, Del Monaco says she's read comments on social media and spoken with residents who are skeptical that dangerous blighted properties exist in New Fairfield. 

She posted photos on the town's Facebook page of abandoned blighted properties in town, which she called attractive nuisances.  Del Monaco says the properties present health and safety concerns to neighbors because of vandals, squatters and other issues. 

The proposed ordinance provides special considerations for those who are elderly, disabled or low income and unable to complete repairs on their own. It also requires a written complaint, an investigation, a hearing, and a plan including a timeline for remediation before any action can taken by the Town. 

The vote on Saturday is from noon to 8pm at Meeting House Hill School.

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Bethel seeks to expand Clarke Business Park

The Bethel Planning and Zoning Commission recently voted to expand Clarke Business Park by 4 lots, while also preserving about 25 acres of open space.  The Newstimes reports that the Terre Haute property where the park is located is home to a species of salamanders considered by the state to be a “species of special concern” and “highly sensitive” to urbanization.  The business park can expand now that the Eureka water tank in nearby Danbury improved water pressure and volume.  The report says expansion of the business park is estimated at $950,000, which has to be approved by numerous boards and residents.  The state must also approve plans to extend Trowbridge Drive cul-de-sac.

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Ridgefield residents approve fracking waste ban

During a Town Meeting in Ridgefield this week, residents approved a fracking waste ban.  More than 100 people turned out to vote on Wednesday.  The newly adopted ordinance makes the storage, disposal, sale, or processing of waste from natural gas or oil extraction prohibited within Ridgefield.  Violators could be fined 250 dollars, sent a “Cease and Desist” order and could be ordered to remediate any damage done to land, road, building, water other asset, public or private, within Ridgefield.  The ordinance proposal was prompted by a petition submitted by residents.

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Local lawmakers wants to address prison reform

State Senator Will Haskell, whose district includes Redding and Ridgefield is a new member of the Judiciary Committee.  He plans to tour prisons during his term, and started with Manson Youth Institution which house around 450 young people,ranging in age from 15 to 21. 

Haskell said in some ways it’s a school building filled with teachers, a library and a cafeteria. In other ways, it couldn’t be more different. He noted that the young people who had made mistakes are trying to rebuild their lives through education and work experience.  

Manson used to have professionals meet with each inmate in the months prior to release and prepare them for the outside world, but the numbers have been cut due to budget constraints.  Haskell learned that around 40% of inmates walk out of prison without any ID, making it hard to get a job or housing.  One corrections officer said if money were no object, she'd like to see a driving school established so teens can thrive once they're released. He says that could help reduce recidivism.

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Promotions, appointments made to Danbury Police Department

Some promotions and appointments have been made to the Danbury Police Department.  A swearing in ceremony was held Wednesday, which was also National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. 

Sergeant Ethan Mabel was promoted to Lieutenant.  Mabel joined the Department in 1995, became a member of the Crisis Negotiating Team in 2007 and served on the United Way Community Wellness Council for two years.  He was also the Department's Special Olympics Town Captain for a decade. 

Officer John Dickinson was promoted to Sergeant.  He began his career in Danbury in 2006, is part of the Honor Guard and the Recruitment Team, is a Field Training Officer and a part time Evidence Technician. 

The Danbury City Council also approved the appointments of two new officers to the Department.  Tyler Hancock was a Corrections Officer at Danbury FCI for the past year and previously worked as a re-entry case manager, helping inmates when they are released back into the community.  Adam Cantor is an auto technician who speaks Spanish and Portuguese.  Both are currently at the Police Academy.  Mayor Mark Boughton says the City is still looking for four or five more officers, though they are looking at recruiting a few current police officers in other municipalities.

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Scotty Fund to hold benefit for New Milford teen

A Bethel-based nonprofit is hosting a fundraiser this weekend to benefit a New Milford boy with a cancerous brain tumor.  The Scotty Fund is teaming up with Training for Warriors for a clinic on Saturday at Gymnastics Revolution in Danbury from 2 to 4pm.  After a sprinting clinic, attendees can use the facility's ninja course.  Organizers hope to raise $2,000 for 13-year old Tim Larson with a suggested donation of $25.

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Danbury schools seek significant budget increase to keep up with enrollment

During a budget presentation last night by members the Danbury Board of Ed, the proposal for the coming year is $139.5 million.  The additional $7.3 million is a 5.6 percent increase over the current year.  Officials say the extra money is needed for contractual raises and to keep up with enrollment growth, staffing for the expanded high school and new modular classrooms at Westside Middle School Academy.  Other increases are needed for health insurance, utilities and transportation.  

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New Milford state Rep. outlines priorities for new session

New Milford Representative Bill Buckbee was sworn into his second term yesterday.  He will assume the Ranking Member role of the Internship Committee, and continue his service on the Commerce Committee. In addition to those assignments, he will also begin service on the Energy and Technology Committee. 

Buckbee says he has quite a few proposals that will be beneficial to New Milford and Connecticut residents.  A couple of highlights include a full-time job incentive to grow and strengthen the state’s workforce.  He will also continuing the quest to bring commuter rail to New Milford to expand options for those who commute daily for work, or on the weekends for recreation. 

Buckbee also wants to implement Opioid Hospital Credits to provide financial relief to hospitals that have open beds to care for those recovering from addiction.  He plans to reform veteran ID card rules, so they can be used as legitimate verification for entry and access to public buildings requiring an individual to produce identification.  Buckbee has also proposed Blockchain Voter Registration to increase the ability of the public to register and participate in state and local voting. 

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Veteran lawmaker sworn in for another term in state House

A veteran lawmaker took the oath of office for his 5th term in the Connecticut General Assembly yesterday.  New Fairfield Representative Richard Smith, whose district also includes parts of Sherman, New Milford and Danbury, is the House Republican Policy Chairman.  In that position, Smith says he wants to develop forward-looking and common sense solutions that encourage economic growth and a balanced budget.  This “long” session allows for bills on a variety of issues to be introduced, debated and voted on in committees and legislative chambers. Smith says priorities continue to include implementing long-term structural changes to restore sustainability and predictability to the budget.  He says the “Prioritize Progress” transportation plan to fund and protect transportation dollars without tolls or tax increases will also be a priority.  Smith will serve as a member of the Judiciary, Housing and Labor & Public Employees Committees.

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Brookfield, Bethel Rep. takes oath of office for 3rd term

Representative Stephen Harding joined legislative colleagues yesterday and was sworn in to his third term representing Brookfield and portions of Bethel and Danbury.  Harding says as a Connecticut resident, former student, and now new parent, he considers the well-being of a variety of constituents in every decision he makes.  Harding says he understands the challenges of working, living, studying, and raising a family here.  He added that he wants to support legislation that will attract business, support healthcare needs and maintain a sustainable environment.  Harding will continue to serve as Ranking Member of the Environment Committee.

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Freshman Danbury lawmaker excited to get down to work

A freshman lawmaker has received his committee assignments and was sworn in yesterday.  Democrat Ken Gucker will represent parts of Danbury, New Fairfield, and Ridgefield in the 138th House District.  He says there is a lot of work ahead, and he is ready for the challenge.  Active in land use, environmental, conservation and historic preservation issues in Danbury, Gucker was asked by Speaker Aresimowicz to serve on the Legislature’s Environment Committee and Planning and Development Committee.  He is also a member of the Banks Committee.  Aresimowicz said Western Connecticut is in Ken’s blood and will fight for his constituents which is exactly what you want from your state representative.  The entire membership of the General Assembly was sworn into office at the State Capitol in Hartford during the opening day ceremony of the 2019 Legislative Session.

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Two local state Senators receive committee assignments

The state Senator representing the Southbury, Roxbury, Washington area has received his committee assignments for the new General Assembly Session.  32nd District Senator Eric Berthel will be the ranking member of two committees: Banking and Education.  He will also serve as a member of the Veterans Affairs Committee. 

State Senator Will Haskell, whose district includes Redding and Ridgefield, will be a vice-chairman of the Government Administration and Elections Committee.  The 22-year old focused part of his campaign on making Connecticut an exciting place for the next generation of Connecticut residents to live and work.  Haskell has also been appointed to the Judiciary, Transportation, Environment and Human Services committees. 

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Monroe, Newtown state Representative receives committee assignments

Monroe and Newtown state Representative JP Sredzinski has received his legislative committee assignments.  He will be a ranking member of the Public Safety and Security Committee, and also a member of the legislature’s Human Services and Higher Education Committees as he starts his third term.  Sredzinski is a public safety dispatch supervisor.  He says the two other committee assignments will give him a chance to protect some of Connecticut's most vulnerable populations.  The Human Services Committee oversees matters relating to the Department of Social Services and the Department of Children and Families.  The Higher Education Committee and Employment Advancement Committee oversees job training programs, apprenticeships, institutions of higher education, the Board of Regents and the Office of Higher Education. 

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Bethel Police investigating fake 'Neighborhood Watch' postcards

Postcards with false information are being investigated by Bethel Police.  The Department says postcards purported to be from a “Neighborhood Watch” have been received by several residents.  The mailer contain false accusations or information about Bethel residents/family members, claiming that the named person has been arrested for various crimes.  In all cases that Bethel Police have investigated so far, the accusations are completely false and fabricated.  Anyone receiving one of these postcards is asked to report it to the Bethel Police Department, but could also just throw it away since they are not from a legitimate source.  Anyone with questions is asked to contact Detective Sergeant Bryce at 203-744-7900 x 114.

(Photo: BPD)

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Skimming devices found on gas pumps in Southeast, NY

The Putnam County Sheriff’s Department is investigating cases where skimming devices have been used to obtain credit card information from gas pumps in the Town of Southeast.  Residents are reminded to be alert for skimmers when using a credit card or debit card at any device such as a gas pump or ATM.  The Sheriff's Office suggest looking for signs of damage and pull and twist on the card reader itself as the actual readers are very tough and the skimmer will pull loose in most cases.  People should also monitor their Credit/Debit cards for any suspicious activity and report unauthorized use to the authorities.

(Photo: PCSD)

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Wilton Police investigating break in of USPS collection box

Wilton Police are investigating a break in of a mail box at the post office.  Forced entry was made into United States Postal Service Collection Box overnight Saturday into Sunday.  Similar activity was also reported in the Town of Weston.  Wilton Police say stealing mail from a residential mailbox or a public collection box continues to trend.  Police are advising residents that if anything valuable is being mailed, including personal checks, to use a mail slot inside the Post Office building to avoid being a victim.  Anyone who recently used a collection box at the Wilton Post Office over the weekend is asked to monitor accounts and report fraudulent activity for investigation.

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Danbury man renominated to lead state Veterans Affairs agency

Connecticut Department of Veteran Affairs Commissioner Tom Saadi has been renominated by Governor-elect Ned Lamont to continue serving in the position.  The Danbury resident says he's humbled to have Lamont's confidence and looks forward to working with the new administration. 

Saadi and other Department leaders met with Lamont's transition team to talk about what's happening in their respective agencies, plans for the future and where work is needed.  Saadi says he was impressed with the process and that the transition team was knowledgeable about state service and the DVA.  His renomination will be up for a public hearing, there will be a committee vote on the confirmation, and then a chamber vote. 

Saadi has been Commissioner since 2017, and wants to continue the mission of “Serving Those Who Served."  He wants to run the DVA in a dynamic and transparent manner to maintain successful programs and services, address areas in need of improvement, streamline processes and leverage federal and community based resources to expand the State's capacity to deliver services to Veterans without additional costs to taxpayers. 

Saadi thanked DVA staff for their work, veterans for their sacrifices and local non-profits who work with the agency.  He added that his service would not be possible without the support of his wife,   Valerie, and their twins, along with the Danbury community.  Saadi serves on the Danbury City Council and is a Major in the U.S. Army Reserve. 

Prior to becoming Acting Commissioner and then officially taking on the job, he served as Chief of Staff and General Counsel for the Department.  Before moving to the DVA, Saadi was an Assistant  Attorney  General and Special Prosecutor for the State.

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Women's Center hosts discussion about role of social media in human trafficking

January is Human Trafficking Awareness Month. The Women's Center of Greater Danbury is hosting a Community Conversation about the exploitation of youth and how social media plays a role.  The discussion will be held tonight from 6:30pm to 8:30pm in the Community Room at Danbury Police Department.  Women's Center staff will moderate the discussion among a panel that will include Danbury and Bethel police officers and representatives of the multi-disciplinary investigation team of Danbury, the state Department of Children and Families, Love 146 and March to End Revenge Porn. The event is free to the public.

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Fairfield Hills Authority to meet about commercial uses

The Fairfield Hills Master Plan Review Committee in Newtown is now focusing on commercial use of the campus.  Two local developers and a commercial real estate expert will meet with the group for a discussion tonight.  There will be time for public input during the meeting.  On January 22nd, the Committee will hear more public input on commercial uses as well as other uses not currently available on the campus.  Both meetings will be held at the Senior Center at 7pm.  The group was created this summer, as required by the Fairfield Hills Master Plan.  They've been meeting since then to understand current and potential future uses for the property, to help guide the upcoming public engagement efforts.

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State Police identify Danbury Police Officers involved in December shooting

State Police have released more information about the officer involved shooting that happened in Danbury on December 29th.  Troopers say Officer Regina Guss deployed her Taser toward a man exiting the Glen Apartments on Memorial Drive, armed with a knife.  He ignored multiple commands to drop his weapon and advanced toward the officers. 

Officer Alex Relyea discharged his service pistol, striking the man three times.  A female resident received an unintentional gunshot wound.  45-year old Paul Arbitelle died at Danbury Hospital. 

The incident remains under investigation by the State Police Western District major Crime Squad.  Anyone who may have witnessed the incident or who has information is encouraged to contact State Police Detectives at 203-267-2225.

Guss has been a police officer with Danbury since December 2006. She received the Exceptional Police Service Award in 2012 for her handling of a volatile situation involving a female wielding a knife, and a Unit Citation the following year for her combined efforts in bringing into custody a dangerous felon who had committed numerous acts of violence against elderly victims.

Relyea has been a police officer with the City since August 2014. He received a Unit Citation in 2017 for his actions resulting in the arrest of a male who had been threatening several people with a loaded firearm.

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New Milford Police investigating thefts from cars

New Milford Police are investigating items stolen from vehicles overnight Sunday into Monday.   The New Milford Police Department is reminding residents to remove valuables from cars and lock them.  Police say exterior house lights on a motion sensor and car alarms that are turned on help prevent crime.  Anyone who sees or hears something out of the ordinary is asked to call New Milford Police.

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Truck hauling modular home hits overpass, closes two highways

Part of Interstates 684 and 84 were closed yesterday when an oversized truck hit an overpass.  New York State Police say the accident happened at the I-84 exit 20 overpass ramp after a tractor trailer was hauling an oversized modular home northbound on 684 and struck the overpass around 11:15am.  The road was closed for several hours, but reopened before the evening commute.

(Photos: NYSP)

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Man charged with DWI had child in car at the time

A New York man has been charged with driving while intoxicated with a child in the car.  Troopers stopped 31-year old Bayron Soto Lopez early Sunday morning for vehicle and traffic violations on Route 6 in Southeast.  An investigation determined that he was impaired, and did not have a license.  The Southeast man was charged with Aggravated DWI with a previous conviction within ten years, endangering the welfare of a child, unsafe lane change, crossing the center line and a seat violation for the back seat passenger under age 4.

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Ex-New York state Senate leader due to report to prison

NEW YORK (AP) - Former New York state Senate leader Dean Skelos is due to report to prison Tuesday to begin serving his four-year and three-month prison term for a corruption conviction.

Skelos, a 70-year-old Republican, is expected to report to the federal prison at Otisville, New York, by mid-afternoon.

The prison has a medium security facility and an adjacent minimum-security satellite camp.

His son, Adam, will report to the federal prison in Danbury, Connecticut, to begin serving his four-year sentence.

Skelos and his son were convicted in July on charges of extortion, wire fraud and bribery.

They report to prison while Democrat Sheldon Silver - the former state Assembly Speaker - remains free while he appeals his corruption trial conviction and seven-year prison sentence.

Skelos and Silver were arrested in separate cases in early 2015.

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New York State lawmakers again trying to remove Trump name from park

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) Lawmakers in the Democrat-controlled New York Legislature are making another attempt to have President Donald Trump's name removed from a defunct state park.

Sen. Brad Hoylman, of Manhattan, and Assemblywoman Nily Rozic, of Queens, have introduced legislation that would allow the state parks commissioner to give Donald J. Trump State Park a different name.

In 2006, Trump donated undeveloped land straddling the Putnam-Westchester county border to the state for a park. The park was one of dozens closed by the state four years later amid a budget crisis.

The park later reopened but isn't included on the state parks agency's website.

Legislation to remove Trump's name was introduced during the previous two legislative sessions but didn't make it out of committee.

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Former Redding Board of Ed chair sentenced

A former Redding Board of Ed chairwoman has been sentenced for promoting a minor in an obscene performance.  Sara Sobel was ordered to 8 years in prison.  The 48 year old pleaded guilty in August to allegations that she repeatedly left a young child with a convicted sex offender and took pornographic photographs and videos of the child that she sent to the man. She previously described that man, Stephen Overby,  as “a close personal friend."  He accepted a plea deal that calls for a 30-year prison sentence, suspended after 18 years.  The judge issued a protective order banning Sobel from contact with the victim until the child turns 18 in 2022.  The Newstimes reports that the victim can then decide as an adult whether to contact Sobel as part of a therapeutic healing process.  Sobel resigned from the Region 9 Board of Education and from the town Democratic committee in September 2017.

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New Fairfield to hold hearing on creating Economic Development Commission

The New Fairfield Board of Selectmen will hold a Public Hearing tomorrow about an ordinance establishing an Economic Development Commission.  First Selectman Pat Del Monaco says many residents have expressed concern about empty storefronts in the center of Town.  The Commission will be charged with conducting research into the economic conditions and trends in New Fairfield, and make recommendations to the Selectmen about actions to improve economic conditions. The Commission members would include residents with expertise in areas such as business, marketing, planning, real estate and finance and would be authorized to conduct public opinion surveys.  140 municipalities of the 169 in Connecticut have established Economic Development Commissions.  Tomorrow's public hearing is at 7:15pm in the Senior Center Community Room.

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Danbury state lawmaker named Deputy Speaker

Danbury State Representative Bob Godfrey has been re-appointed as Deputy Speaker for the upcoming General Assembly Session.  He will also serve on the Judiciary Committee, Executive & Legislative Nominations Committee, and the Joint Committee on Legislative Management.  Godfrey will serve as the presiding officer of the House in the event that the Speaker of the House is absent.  He is entering his 16th term as a state legislator, having served since 1989.  Last year, Godfrey was the recipient of the AARP Capitol Caregiver Award, which is given to legislators who champion the needs of family caregivers. 

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Lamont taps career professional to run child welfare agency

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Gov.-elect Ned Lamont has nominated a career professional at the Department of Children and Families to oversee the child welfare agency.

The Democrat said Monday he's chosen Vannessa Dorentes to be the agency's new commissioner after conducting a national search. Lamont says he concluded "some of the best and the brightest are right on the front lines," pointing out how Dorentes' career has spanned more than 25 years, beginning as a social worker.

The 49-year-old Dorentes has served as a regional administrator in western Connecticut since 2014.

Many of Dorentes' co-workers, friends and even one of her first clients were on hand for Lamont's announcement at the state Capitol.

Kanisha Malloy of Meriden credits Dorentes with being a consistent, positive presence throughout her life since she was in foster care.

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Bridgewater Police partner with NSSF to offer gun locks

The Town of Bridgewater has announced that free gun locks are available at the Bridgewater Police Department.  They are being made available through Project ChildSafe.  The program of the Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation is aimed at promoting firearms safety and education.

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Freshman lawmaker gets leadership role in state House

State Representative-elect Raghib Allie-Brennan will have leadership roles in the House when the new General Assembly gets under way Wednesday.  He was named Assistant Majority Leader, which positions him as a key member of House leadership.  Allie-Brennan was also named vice-chair of the Energy and Technology Committee and appointed to serve as a member of the General Law Committee and the Public Safety & Security Committee.  He will be the youngest member of the House when he is sworn in to his first term.  The 2nd District includes parts of Bethel, Danbury, Redding and Newtown.

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Brookfield Board of Ed considers changing school start times

The Brookfield Board of Education has formed a committee to look at changing school start times.  A number of districts in the Greater Danbury area have been examining the possibility as studies have shown that more sleep could improve the physical and mental health of students.  Concerns with pushing back the start of the school day include impacts on athletics or on teens who hold after school jobs. The committee will gather feedback from parents, teachers, the bus company and others.

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Record number of First Day Hike participants

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection says there was a record number of people who participated in First Day Hikes.  Nearly 2,000 people participated in guided hikes at 10 parks.  175 people showed up at Kettletown State Park in Southbury, where people attended the guided hike featuring damage from the May macroburst.  Spokesman Chris Colibee says there were a number of factors that led to the increase including warmer temperatures than in past years, more parks offering hikes and the new Passport to Parks program.  The initiative went into effect in 2018, allowing any Connecticut car to enter a state park for free.

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Winter drawdown begins on Candlewood Lake

The winter drawdown on Candlewood Lake has started.  FirstLight Power Resources began the process last week to control the spread of Eurasian Water Milfoil. 

Spokesman Len Greene says this winter has been highly unusual to this point.  The historical amount of rainfall led to at or near flood condition river flows on the Housatonic in the fall.   That led to a delay in the drawdown in order to avoid making conditions worse downstream of the Rocky River station.  Mild air temperatures also impacted their ability to perform an audit required to establish the generation capacity rating at the station for the season.  FirstLight decided to forego the audit entirely and absorb the commercial impact to the company in order to conduct the deep drawdown. 

The targeted elevation is expected to be reached by the end of January. FirstLight will refill the lake to recreational elevation prior to the opening day of fishing season in early April.

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Wooster School to phase out lower school program

Wooster School in Danbury has announced that it would be phasing out its Lower School program over the next two years.  While there's record enrollment growth in the Upper School program, up 50-percent in the last 5 years, the same hasn't been seen in the lower school  Head of School Matt Byrnes says regional and national trends are contributing factors, including a steadily declining birthrate over the last ten years and the rising cost of college.  He says they regret the necessity of phasing out the lower school program, but are excited to be able to focus more fully on their strengths as a school.  Wooster School will continue to offer a lower school program for students in grades three through five next school year, and fourth and fifth grade options the following year.

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Arconti to chair legislature's Energy and Technology Committee

Danbury State Representative David Arconti has been named Chairman of the legislature’s Energy and Technology Committee.  He was also re-appointed as a member of the Environment Committee and General Law Committee. 

Arconti says he looks forward to building on work that the Energy Committee has done over the past sessions to move Connecticut forward.  He will begin his fourth term and will be sworn in Wednesday.

Arconti will work alongside first-term legislator Rep-Elect Raghib Allie-Brennan of Bethel who was appointed as Vice-Chair.  The Committee has worked on issues concerning net neutrality, climate change planning and resiliency, development of sustainable and equitable funding for energy efficiency, and severe storm response plans and strategic communications.

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5th Congressional District office now open in Waterbury

A ribbon cutting ceremony scheduled for today at the district office of Representative Jahana Hayes has been postponed.  The office in Waterbury is open however to serve residents of the Fifth Congressional District.  Due to the partial government shutdown, agencies responsible for assisting and completing the move-in have delayed their process, which affected the ribbon cutting timetable.  Hayes says Waterbury is the geographic center of the District and the office is centrally located  to provide constituent services to people from the northwest corner to Danbury to New Britain.  She also hopes the office will play a role in the ongoing revitalization of Waterbury. 

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Newtown state lawmaker to host listening session

State Representative Mitch Bolinsky is hosting a Legislative Listening Session at the C.H. Booth Library’s Meeting Room tonight from 6pm to 7:30pm.  Bolinsky says it's important to hear from his constituents about any ideas or concerns.  He says there's a lot of work to be done to strengthen the state's fiscal sustainability and restore affordability for families and businesses.  While Bolinsky says he looks forward to working with Governor-elect Ned Lamont, he also remains opposed to increasing taxes and initiating tolls without dollar-for-dollar offsets for working-class families.  He says making Connecticut less affordable will impede accomplishing the sustained economic recovery Connecticut needs.

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Workshop planned in Bethel on Plan of Conservation & Development

A workshop is being held in Bethel next week on the town's Plan of Conservation and Development.  People attending the workshop will have an opportunity to provide their vision for Bethel over the next ten years.  Officials are seeking input on what residents think needs to be done, what services are need and what can be done to make the town better.  The workshop on Tuesday is at 7pm in the Municipal Center General Purpose Room.

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Candlewood Fire Company mourns passing of Life Member

The Brookfield Volunteer fire Department, Candlewood Company is mourning the passing of Life Member, William Gleissner. He joined the Company in 1965.  The 86-year old died Wednesday.  During his time in the fire department, he also taught CPR to firefighters as well as to students at Huckleberry Hill Elementary School. 

He was a Sergeant in the United States Army and served during the Korean War.  He was also a member of the Danbury Mad Hatters Barbershop Chorus, the St. Joseph Men’s Club, a volunteer driver for the American Cancer Society, and played cards at the Brookfield Senior Center. 

The family will receive friends at the Cornell Memorial Home on White Street in Danbury on Sunday between 1pm-4pm.  A Mass of Christian Burial will be held on Monday at 10:30am at St. Joseph Church, Brookfield.  Interment in St. Peter Mausoleum will follow with full military honors.  family is asking that memorial contributions be made to Regional Hospice and Palliative Care of Danbury, or to Brookfield Volunteer Fire Dept, Candlewood Company. 

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Monroe firefighters caution residents to fundraising scam

The Stepney Volunteer Fire Company in Monroe is reminding residents that they never solicits donations over the telephone. Fund drive letters are mailed out and have their local address on the envelope.  The reminder comes as a volunteer fire company in nearby Trumbull has been alerted to a phone scammer posing as the department and asking for donations.  The caller ID displays Volunteer Firefighters of First Responders.  Monroe fire officials say legitimate Departments never receive any money from them even though they “say they represent local Fire Companies”. 

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Newtown man charged for alleged home invasion

A man running in and out of traffic shouting at people in Newtown yesterday evening has been arrested on home invasion and other charges.  Officers were able to locate the suspicious person within minutes of receiving 911 calls from people in the area of Rams Pasture and Route 25. 

While 52-year old Andrew Robbins of Newtown was being detained near Sugar Street, officers heard a woman yelling from a nearby house.  She reported that the man had just kicked in her front door in and entered her home.  The woman was able to push him out and hit him with a fire poker. 

He had a spring loaded knife in his possession.  Robbins was charged with home invasion, criminal trespass, breach of peace, carrying a dangerous weapon, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.  He was held on $100,000 bond.  

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Wrong way driver in New Milford found in possession of stolen gun

When New Milford Police were arresting a wrong way driver for being under the influence, officer found a stolen handgun.  28-year old Charles Cameron-Sheffield of Bridgeport was arraigned and released on bond for a court appearance on the 22nd for the December 16th incident. 

Police received a number of calls early that morning of a wrong way driver on Route 7 by New Milford High School.  The vehicle was located near the Brookfield town line when an off-duty Federal officer was able to get the keys to the car after the driver stopped.  With the help of Brookfield Police, the car was removed from the road. 

Cameron-Sheffield failed field sobriety tests and was arrested for DUI.  A search of the vehicle turned up a 9mm Smith & Wesson handgun.  A loaded magazine was found under the driver's seat.  Cameron-Sheffield does not have a valid Connecticut pistol permit and a nationwide check of the pistol's serial number showed that it had been stolen from a person in Georgia. 

In addition to the DUI, he was also charged with Stealing a Firearm;, Weapons in Vehicles, Reckless Driving, Failure to Drive in Proper Lane, and Driving Wrong Way on Divided Highway.

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Danbury woman shot by police files intent to sue

A Danbury woman wounded by police who fatally shot her son has filed a notice that she intends to sue.  The Connecticut Post reports that Linda Arbitelle is seeking compensatory and punitive damages for assault, battery, violation of her civil rights, excessive force, negligence and “claims of failure to properly supervise officers and failure to properly train officers, and negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress.” 

Linda Arbitelle is currently in intensive care at Danbury Hospital.

The state medical examiner’s office confirmed that 45-year old Paul Arbitelle died of gunshot wounds to the torso and extremities Saturday night.  The death has been ruled a homicide. 

A suspicious man wielding a knife at The Glen Senior Apartments got into a confrontation with responding officers.  One deployed his stun gun, but it was ineffective.  A second officer then fired multiple shots.  

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Southbury seek help identifying person with information on case

The Southbury Police Department is asking for the publics help in identifying a person who may have information about an active investigation.  Police posted a photo of the man to their Facebook page, taken from store surveillance video.  Police say he may possibly live on Brushy Hill Road in Newtown. Any one with information is asked to contact Officer Morrone at 203- 264-5912. All calls will be kept confidential.

(Photo: SPD)

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86 dogs rescued from fire at Puppy Love in Danbury

86 dogs were rescued from a two-alarm blaze in Danbury last night.  The fire broke out at Puppy Love on Lake Avenue Ext. shortly before 9pm.  All dogs were safely evacuated thanks to residents and customers from nearby restaurants who entered the building. 

The fire was in the back side of the building, not in the actual area where the dogs are kept, in a pole barn owned by the utility company.  Mayor Mark Boughton says there was a tremendous response from public safety personnel and civilians to ensure that no animals were harmed. 

The dogs were moved into the building next door.  Animal control officers were working to get the animals placed with the state.

(Photos: Mayor Boughton)

 

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7 hospitalized after fire at Danbury FCI

A mass casualty incident was declared in Danbury yesterday as firefighters responded to the prison.  A fire was reported in a laundry bin filled with towels at the Federal Correctional Institution around 2:15pm.  The bin was brought outside the laundry room by staff before firefighters arrived.  7 employees were triaged and transported to the hospital for smoke inhalation as well as inhalation of powder from Dry Chemical extinguishers. The mass casualty incident was declared so Danbury Hospital Staff could prepare for multiple patients.  The fire is under investigation by Federal Authorities, but does not appear suspicious at this time.

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PA man charged with DWAI after wrong way crash on exit ramp

A Pennsylvania man who drove the wrong way on an exit ramp has been charged for driving while his ability was impaired by drugs.  New York State Police responded to exit 19 eastbound off I-84 in Carmel Wednesday morning.  Investigators determined that 45-year old Christopher Franz struck a pick up truck head on.  Franz, along with the 46-year old Carmel driver and his child passenger, were all transported to Danbury Hospital for treatment of minor injuries.  When he was released from the hospital Franz was arraigned and ordered held at Putnam County Jail for a January 14th court appearance.

(Photo: NYSP)

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Driver hits Danbury firehouse, two cars

A driver collided into the Germantown Company 10 fire station building, around 3:45pm.  The firehouse suffered some structural damage.  Two other vehicles were struck after the SUV left the roadway at the intersection of Germantown, Sand Pit and Great Plain Roads.  There was no immediate word on injuries of anyone involved.

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Wilton reports no thefts from cars, stolen vehicles in December

Despite sustained activity of thefts from vehicles and stolen vehicles in Connecticut and surrounding communities, Wilton Police say the town went the entire month of December with no reported thefts from vehicles or stolen vehicles.  Police started posting reminders on social media of a simple motto: Lock It or Lose It.  Officials say that seems to have done the trick, with prevention being the best deterrent.  Wilton Police say officers are acutely aware of the issue and have been proactive in their patrolling of the community, creating another deterrent through visibility and enforcement.  The Wilton Community Emergency Response Team helped with the messaging and deployment of Variable Signs at various locations throughout Wilton in December.

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Two Danbury non-profits receive state grant funding

Two Danbury non-profits are among 92 organizations receiving state grant money from the Nonprofit Grant Program, which helps offset the costs of one-time infrastructure improvements aimed at improving their efficiency and effectiveness.  Family & Children’s Aid will put $280,600 toward their Playmakers Village. 

Midwestern Connecticut Council on Alcoholism will receive little more than $191,000.  The organization will use the money for well and water storage tank work at Trinity Glen in Kent along with HVAC and roof repair work at their Bridgeport outpatient facility. 

Nearly $31 million is being allocated in this 7th round of funding.  The grant program was created by Governor Malloy in 2013 and has invested $105 million in hundreds of the state’s nonprofit organizations since its launch. 

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Vote later this month in New Fairfield on blight ordinance

New Fairfield residents have set the date for a machine vote on the proposed Anti-Blight Ordinance.  The vote will be held on Saturday, January 12th from noon to 8pm at Meeting House Hill School. 

This will be the fourth vote on a blight ordinance in New Fairfield.

The latest proposal is aimed at addressing many residents concerns, including the definition of what would be considered a blighted premises by adding an objective and more specifics.  Review and enforcement of blight-related complaints and special considerations for those residents unable to perform or afford needed repairs were also taken into account.  

First Selectman Pat Del Monaco asked that residents consider what it's like to live near an abandoned, dilapidated and potentially dangerous property when casting their vote. The proposed ordinance would give the town the authority and process necessary to correct such situations.  She says it's not intended to regulate the length of grass, the color of house paint or other aesthetic issues, but rather to address valid health and safety concerns.

The ordinance also gives special consideration to those who may need time or assistance to correct violations due to age, disability or income.

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Esty donates $50,000 to gun violence prevention program

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - Outgoing U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty has donated $50,000 of her remaining campaign funds to a gun violence prevention program.

Newtown Action Alliance announced the Democrat's contribution Thursday, the same day Esty's 5th District successor, Democratic U.S. Rep.-elect Jahana Hayes, was being sworn into office in Washington, D.C.

The alliance's chairwoman, Po Murray, says the contribution will be used to expand a program that helps students raise public awareness about gun-violence prevention.

Newtown Action Alliance was formed in the wake of the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, which occurred shortly before Esty first took office.

Esty didn't seek a fourth term after facing criticism for her handling of a harassment case in her office. As of Sept. 30, her campaign account had $942,320 remaining. Those are the most recent available figures.

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New Milford Community Investment Officer to hold weekly office hours

New Milford’s community investment officer will start office hours on Thursday afternoons.  Kathy Castagnetta will meet with business owners one-on-one on Thursdays from 2pm to 5pm at the Makery Coworking space at 20 Bank Street.  She will answer questions about municipal permits, the approvals process and grant or loan opportunities available through the Corporation for New Milford Economic Development and their lending partner, the Hartford Economic Development Corporation.  The organization is aimed at helping to expand and develop new business opportunities in New Milford and promote a business-friendly climate.

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Driver extricated from car involved in crash that knocked out power in Redding

A single car accident in Redding on Tuesday night sent one person to the hospital and knocked out power to the area.  Firefighters and Police responded to Marchant Road on New Years on a report of an accident with entrapment.  The driver was still in the vehicle and had to be extricated by first responders.  The patient was transported to the hospital.  Eversouce was called on a priority for safety concerns.  Marchant road was closed for about an hour and a half.

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Data shows economic disparities prevalent in Connecticut

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A recent U.S. Census survey reveals that Connecticut has one of the highest median household incomes in the country but wealth in the state remains heavily skewed.

The Hartford Courant reports that data shows that Connecticut ranked 5th in the U.S. for median income. Connecticut Data Collaborative executive director Michelle Riordan-Nold says the state's median income rose about 6 percent from the 2008-2012 period to the 2013-2017 period.

According to the data, nine of the 10 towns with the state's highest household incomes between 2013 and 2017 were in Fairfield County. The cities of New Haven, Hartford and Bridgeport were all in the lower range.  Weston was tops with an income of nearly $220,000 while Hartford came in last at about $34,000.  Other Fairfield County towns in Connecticut’s top 10 were Darien, Easton, Greenwich, New Canaan, Redding, Ridgefield, Westport and Wilton. 

Danbury was 33rd from the bottom with an average income of $68,000.  Among the most significant increases were in Southbury, where the median household income jumped more than one-third, to about $90,000. 

Economist Don Klepper-Smith says the survey shows that "rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer."

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Walt Disney joins program to combat social isolation

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - The Walt Disney Co. has agreed to help expand an educational program developed in response to the 2012 mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school.

Sandy Hook Promise, an organization whose founders include the parents of some of the children killed in the Newtown shooting, announced Thursday that Disney will help fund and further develop its Start With Hello program. That is a curriculum that promotes inclusion and combats social isolation among elementary school students.

The program is designed to reach children who feel marginalized and let them know that they are seen and valued. It is available to schools at no cost.

Sandy Hook Promise says it expects to train 2.8 million students and adults in 6,000 schools and youth organizations in the program's first three years.

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UPDATED: State Police ID man killed during Officer Involved Shooting

State Police have released the name of the man killed during an officer involved shooting in Danbury last week.  The state medical examiner’s office confirmed that a man named 45-year old Paul Arbitelle died of gunshot wounds to the torso and extremities Saturday night.  The death has been ruled a homicide. 

The unit of Glen senior Apartments where police responded, according to public records, belong to the man's mother.  Arbitelle has a lengthy criminal history, including a conviction for a racially motivated attack on a black man on State Street in Danbury several years ago.

Danbury Housing Authority staff hosted a community meeting Monday with crisis counselors to speak with residents who needed help.

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Route 7 closure overnight for transformer transportation

Part of Route 7 in New Milford will be closed again overnight as State Police escort a transformer to an under construction power plant in Dover Plains, New York.  The moving closure will be in place from 8:30pm through 5am tomorrow between Pickett District Road and Route 55.  A third closure is expected as equipment for Cricket Valley Energy Center is moved.  No date for the last move has been set.  The transportation includes jumper bridges put up at several smaller bridge crossings, which will then be removed.  The move is being escorted by Connecticut State Police.  The DOT says Route 55 in New Milford and Sherman may be closed for a short duration tomorrow as part of the scheduled transformer move.

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Public hearing set in Ridgefield on proposed fracking waste ban ordinance

A public hearing is being held in Ridgefield on Saturday January 5th.  The hearing is about the proposed fracking ban ordinance.  It would make the storage, disposal, sale, acquisition, transfer, handling, treatment and/or processing of waste from natural gas or oil extraction prohibited within Ridgefield.  Violators could be fined 250 dollars, sent a “Cease and Desist” order and could be ordered to remediate any damage done to land, road, building, aquifer, well, watercourse, air quality or other asset, be it public or private, within Ridgefield.  The hearing on Saturday is at 10am in the Ridgefield Town Hall Large Conference Room.

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Redding Board of Ed meets about budget proposals

The Redding Boards of Selectmen, Finance and Education are starting the budget process.  On the school side, the biggest share of the spending will once again be for personnel costs with contracts requiring pay raises, special education and transportation.  Municipal spending will be focused on capital items, tree removal and maintenance.  Some of the big items will be pay raises for the police and highway unions, a new emergency communications system, and a Station Road bridge.  A listening session has been scheduled for January 3rd at Mark Twain Library at 6:30pm.  Department heads will make presentations to the Selectmen during their all day budget workshop on January 11th.

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New Fairfield Schools budget meeting scheduled

The New Fairfield School Superintendent will present the budget proposal for the coming year tonight.  This is the first budget proposal from Pat Cosentino.  The special Board of Education meeting will be held at 6:30pm in the New Fairfield Community Room.  The board will then hold their regular meeting at 7:30pm.  A budget workshop for New Fairfield schools is slated for Monday at 7pm.  The current year's school budget was a 4-point-68 percent increase over the previous year.

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Local veteran fighting to cut red tape to help those exposed to Agent Orange

Two U.S. Senators blocked debate of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act in the final days before the federal government shutdown, according to Senator Richard Blumenthal.  Connecticut veterans have vowed to continue the fight in the new year. 

The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act will remove obstacles veterans have faced in qualifying for health care and benefits for conditions resulting from toxic chemical exposure during their service aboard Navy ships in Vietnam. Since 2002, only veterans serving within the land boundaries of Vietnam are presumed to have health conditions resulting from chemical exposure Agent Orange.

Eugene Clark of Redding was drafted in 1966, practiced for Vietnam and was then sent to Korea.  He says these veterans are getting sicker by the day and there aren't many of them left.

As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, Blumenthal co-sponsored the Senate measure.  The bill also includes legislation backed by Blumenthal to ensure that all veterans exposed to toxic substances who served in the Korean DMZ from September 1, 1967 to August 31, 1971 also receive timely access to health care and benefits.

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Danbury submits sewer plant upgrade designs for state review

Now that Danbury residents have approved more than $102 million in bonding for mandated phosphorus removal equipment installation and other work at the Waste Water Treatment Plant, City officials are getting to work on the project.  Public Works Director Antonio Iadarola says he was surprised by the overwhelming support from voters on the ballot question during the election.

By this time next year construction could be under way.  He notes that it's a two to three year project. 

Danbury officials are applying for grant funding to offset some of the costs of the work.  Iadarola told the City Council that his office has received the 90-percent final drawings, which include multiple volumes of specs.  There's almost 1,000 drawings to review.  The state contacted the City and says it could take three months to review. 

Once that's complete, he says final modifications will be made and then get an authorization to go out to bid.  Iadrola says it will then take 6 to 8 months to initiate contracts and get into construction.  As bids come in, his office will work with the Finance Department. 

Mayor Mark Boughton says the biggest impact on sewer rates will be felt by businesses and larger corporations, which will see a substantial increase.  He says single family residences with a $55 quarterly bill, for example, will see their bill go up $5 if there's a 10-percent increase.

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Gas leak at Bethel High School prompts early dismissal

Due to a gas odor at Bethel High School the building was evacuated this morning and students were moved to the Middle and Berry schools. The Fire Department was called, and the gas was shut off immediately.  Everyone was reported safe.  Yankee Gas inspected the building and determined that a roof top unit was leaking. The unit was shut down. High School students were dismissed early today.

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Danbury Police release statement about fatal officer-involved shooting

Danbury Police have released a limited statement about the fatal officer involved shooting that happened Saturday night.  Police spokesman Det. Lt. Mark Williams says preliminary information indicates that the officer was in imminent, life-threatening danger and acted in self-defense. 

An internal review and assessment of the incident is under way.  In the statement, Williams called it a tragic incident and said their thoughts go out to all those affected.

Danbury Police say State Police or the States Attorney will release the identities of those involved. 

 A suspicious man wielding a knife at The Glen Senior Apartments got into a confrontation with responding officers. One deployed his stun gun, but it was ineffective.  A second officer then fired multiple shots.  A female relative of the man also suffered a gunshot wound.  There was no immediate update on the woman's condition.

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Putnam County law enforcement reminds drivers not to pass stopped school buses

Numerous complaints have been received by Putnam County law enforcement agencies about drivers passing stopped school buses.  As school children countywide get ready to return to school from their holiday break, motorists are reminded that, under New York State law, it is illegal to pass a school bus that is stopped to discharge or receive students. 

When red flashing lights are activated, traffic is required to stop in both directions on undivided highways, regardless of the number of lanes, to allow students to board or exit the school bus.  Putnam County Sheriff Robert Langley says most school bus related deaths and injuries occur while children cross the street after being discharged from the bus, rather than in collisions that involve school buses. 

Passing a school bus with red lights is punishable with fines ranging from $250 to $1,000.  Five points may be assessed to a driver’s license, and penalties can also include possible imprisonment (up to 30 days for the first offense and180 days for a third or subsequent conviction).  Langley says they are asking community members to help gather information about violators by getting license plate numbers, the location of the violation and a description of the car and motorists whenever possible. 

School buses activate yellow flashing lights to alert motorists that they are preparing to discharge or receive students. Red flashing lights and an extended stop sign arm signals to motorists that a school bus is stopped and children are either boarding or exiting the bus. 

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Connecticut's newest congressional member to be sworn in

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A new member of Connecticut's congressional delegation will be sworn into office with the rest of the incoming 116th Congress.

Democrat Jahana Hayes, a 45-year-old former national teacher of the year, will be the first black woman to represent Connecticut in Congress. She's scheduled to appear at Thursday's swearing-in ceremony, to be held on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Hayes succeeds Democratic U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty in representing Connecticut's 5th District. Esty didn't seek a fourth term after facing criticism for her handling of a harassment case in her office.

Hayes joins a team of veteran Democrats who represent Connecticut in Washington, D.C.

The delegation includes U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy and U.S. Reps. Rosa DeLauro, Jim Himes, Joe Courtney and John Larson.

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Suspect in woman's slaying held on $2M bond

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) - An Ohio man charged with fatally shooting a Connecticut woman he met on a dating app and leaving her body face down in the sand near a boat ramp has been held on $2 million bond.

The Connecticut Post reports that 26-year-old Brandon Roberts made his first court appearance Monday on charges including murder and first-degree robbery in the death of Emily Todd.

The 25-year-old Bethel woman was found shot in the head on the Bridgeport waterfront Dec. 9.

Police say Todd decided to end their relationship with Roberts after a few days. Police allege Roberts, of Shaker Heights, Ohio, stole Todd's car, cellphone and debit card after the killing and withdraw money from her bank.

Roberts' public defender asked that her client undergo mental health evaluation and treatment.

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Danbury looks to expand recreational trails

As part of the Long Ridge Road property acquisition in Danbury, the Health and Human Services Department is looking to connect parts of the Ives Trail to the newly purchased parcel of land.  The City is applying for up to $500,000 in grant money from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. 

The money would be used for gravel parking, not pavement, and access to the site.  Department Director Lisa Morrisey says they are also looking at making improvements to the Still River Greenway to make it accessible to people of all abilities.  The Recreational Trails Program money must be used to enhance health and the general quality of life of residents and visitors by providing opportunities for outdoor recreation. 

 It requires a 20-percent match from the City, which will come from in-kind services. 

Funding can be used to plan or design trails, construct new trails or maintain and restore existing ones.  It could also be used to purchase maintenance equipment, acquire land for trail corridors or run educational programs related to recreational trails.  The range of activities including hiking, walking, picnicking, camping, fishing and swimming.

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Danbury Board of Ed member resigns

A Danbury Board of Education member is resigning for family health reasons.  Democrat Kathleen Molinaro has served on the board for 13 years and her last day will be January 9th.  She said it wouldn't be fair to hold the eat and not give it her full attention. 

The Danbury School District is accepting application from any City resident over the age of 18, but Democrats do also have a handful of possible candidates to recommend to the board at their January 14th meeting.  The new member would serve out the remainder of the term, through the November 2019 election.  Applications will be accepted through January 16th.

 

Molinaro is the third Board member to resign since November 2016.

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Workshop to be held in Danbury on Opportunity Zones program

The Connecticut Economic Resource Center is hosting an informational meeting on January 23rd about the federal Opportunity Zones program created last December.  The program allows investors to re-invest their unrealized capital gains into Opportunity Funds - private investment vehicles dedicated to community, business, real estate, and economic development activities in America's lowest-income communities.  

The workshop will feature general information about the new program, as well as recommendations for cities, philanthropies, advocates, and private sector representatives interested in Opportunity Fund creation, operation, and management.  It's aimed at economic development professionals, real estate developers/brokers, potential investors, and small business owners/incubators.

The workshop on January 23rd is from 8am to 10:30 at the Palace Theater on Main Street in Danbury. 

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Old Brookfield fire boat sold, put into service in Illinois

Brookfield Volunteer Fire Department Candlewood Company sold its current Marine 25 fire boat last month to the Havana Fire Department in Illinois.  Marine 25 first went in service for Candlewood Company in 2005 and since then has responded to numerous emergencies on Candlewood Lake and Lake Lillinonah.  The custom fire/rescue boat was twenty-five feet long and featured a jet-drive propulsion system, as well as a landing-craft style drop down bow-gate to allow for easy water access.  Members of Candlewood Company said its goodbyes to Marine 25, as it goes into service in a new community and sets sail on the Illinois river.

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First Day Hikes held across Connecticut today

Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection State Parks and its partners will sponsor free, guided hikes in many state parks on New Year’s Day as part of America's State Parks First Day Hikes initiative taking place in all 50 states.

Spokesman Chris Colibee says this offers individuals and families an opportunity to begin the New Year rejuvenated and connecting with the outdoors by taking a healthy hike on January 1st at a state park close to home.   Connecticut has hundreds of miles of trails appropriate for all age levels to enjoy as we celebrate the first day of 2019.  Each year more than 9 million visitors visit the 110 Connecticut State Parks.

Park staff and volunteers will lead the hikes, which average one to two miles or longer depending on the state park.  Details about hike locations, difficulty and length, terrain and tips regarding proper clothing are listed on the America’s State Parks website. 

Kettletown State Park in Southbury is among the facilities hosting a First Day Hike.  A 2-mile moderate trek will take place at 1pm at the trail head for Miller Trail.  This hike will offer views of much of the tornado damage from May 2018.  Participants are asked to bring water, snack, sturdy footwear, and a sense of adventure.  Dogs on leash allowed.

First Day Hikes originated more than 25 years ago at a state park in Massachusetts.

 National Association of State Park Directors Executive Director Lewis Ledford says visitors can listen to birds, breathe in fresh air, and discover wildlife tracks.  He added that visitors can expect to be surrounded by the quiet beauty of nature in winter, experience spectacular views and vistas and benefit from the company of a knowledgeable state park guide.  America's State Parks is committed to promoting outdoor recreation in state parks as a way to address obesity, especially among children. 

The mission of the NASPD and America's State Parks is to promote and advance the state park systems of America for their own significance, as well as for their important contributions to the nation’s environment, heritage, health and economy.

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New Milford Christmas Tree discard location announced

New Milford Parks & Recreation is reminding residents that they can discard unwanted Christmas trees at the entrance to Clatter Valley Park until February 1st.  There are signs up about the drop off, though officials ask that there be no wire left on the trees.  New Milford Mayor Pete Bass  says some of the branches will be used for the gardens to protect the plantings in the Winter.

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Sen. Murphy releases year-end report

Senator Chris Murphy has released a year-end report outlining the work he did for Connecticut residents last year.  Murphy responded to over 210,000 calls, letters and emails from Connecticut residents, helped over 5,300 Connecticut residents work through federal issues and get their owed benefits and established 7 Economic Advisory Councils to work with local community leaders, business owners, advocates, and other stakeholders. 

He also helped returned over $967,000 to Connecticut residents, including owed Social Security payments, veteran benefits, tax refunds and other savings from federal agencies.  Working with the state delegation, they brought back millions of dollars in federal funding for job training programs, health care services, and upgrades to roads and rails.

Three of Murphy's bills were signed into law. 

One would expand mental health care for veterans, another helps combat the opioid crisis, and one improves the background check system.  The Recovery COACH Act is based on a Connecticut program and aimed at helping people in recovery from substance abuse.  The Honor Our Commitment Act provides access to mental health care for more than 500,000 veterans who were previously ineligible.

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