Local Headlines Archives for 2019-03

Committee formed in Danbury to review how often to update statutes

A committee has been formed in Danbury to look into whether the City's Code of Ordinances should be updated annually.  The City Council in February adopted a revised document, updating it for the first time in 50 years.  City Councilman Warren Levy supports the concept of recodification and going through outdated regulations, but questioned if other members read through the 557 pages of changes before the vote.  He requested an ad hoc committee to look into hiring an outside service to update the code and review it annually to make sure the City is not in conflict with state statutes.  Levy noted that if the document was reviewed every year, it wouldn't be as time consuming to pair state statutes with City law and it wouldn't be as expensive.   The City Charter is different than the Code of Ordinances.  The Charter lays out different departments, but the way they operate is outlined in the Code of Ordinances.

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New DOT leader seeks to reassure Danbury area lawmakers

The new head of the state Department of Transportation is making the case for infrastructure work, while also trying to assure lawmakers he's more than a rail guy.  Joseph Giulietti ,the former president of Metro North was on Governor Lamont's Transportation transition committee.  They looked at the highways, seaports, airports, freight rail and passenger rail to come up with possible solutions to integrate the state into a transportation network and best poise Connecticut to better connect travelers and goods. 

When it comes to rail, Giulietti says the Danbury line is unique, noting that when he was MNR President he was called before the legislature's Transportation Committee and asked by it was not electrified and how it could be done.  There's also been discussion about how to connected it further west, to meet the Harlem line.

Giulietti used to operate trains out of Danbury, as a conductor and locomotive engineer.  But he also says he knows what it's like to get in the traffic jam between exits 3 and 7, the tie ups in City Center and the related road problems.

Giulietti says he wants to look at the best investments to prioritize improvements.

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School Safety Working Group makes recommendations to legislative committees

The Connecticut General Assembly School Safety Working Group has come up with 16 ideas to address in the new legislative session.  Newtown Representative JP Sredzinski says the need for mental health services outpaces the available funding.  He noted that communication from pediatrics to schools remains a concern, even though some stems from privacy laws.  He says that can be mediated by supporting school-based health clinics.

Schools receiving grants for school security assessments, are required to conduct an assessment every two years but there's no follow up requirement that it's done.  Sredzinski also noted that there's no approved consultant vendor list.  There's a lack of standard security measures, and recommendations are left to local Boards of Education.  He suggests some standards, verified before districts get security grant funding.  Sredzinski also wants to see how to incorporate social and emotional learning into school curriculum, or a mental health awareness class. 

Based on feedback from school officials, Sredzinski says the state template for school security should be made less cumbersome.  He wants the legislature to reexamine and streamline paperwork.

Another proposal is to study the effectiveness of School Security Officers and School Resource Officers, and what training they should have.  He also suggested that all sworn police personnel be granted statewide peace officer status so they could respond to an event like 12/14.  Similar bills were not approved in previous years because of conflicts with gun free zones not allowing firearms on campus unless the sworn police officer is on duty.

Another suggestion is to require every school district create a permanent committee on school safety design and operation standards and implementation.  The committee should include representatives of the superintendent, police authority, fire, EMS, local public health, someone involved in day to day facility maintenance operation and someone from the mental or behavioral health profession.  It was also suggested having members of the Board of Ed or PTO involved in the committee.

The Sandy Hook Commission suggested having a licensed architect included in the School Safety Infrastructure Council.  Sredzinski says this hasn't happened, but should be looked into.  The Commission also suggested funding for the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection and Department of Homeland Security to have regional school safety planners to assist districts in coming up with plans and carrying out drills and training.  There are 5 regions in the state.  The Commission also suggested formal after-action reports being filed for future studying.  Sredzinski also wants more active drilling, with DESPP, State Police and the Police Chiefs Association, developing and conducting a joint regional exercise of planned responses to major events. Another concept would required DESPP to review active shooter response plans for every community.  If a community doesn't have a plan, DESPP would be required to help them create one. Another proposal is to require the state Department of Education to come up with a statewide plan for responding to large-scale school crisis events.

Sredzinski acknowledged that there are a lot of mandates and will cost money, but he believes each could be implemented.  Even if they remain proposals, he says it may give districts the idea and they could then voluntarily implement the ideas.

The Sandy Hook Commission heard testimony that an active shooter has never breached a locked classroom door.  He suggests that every classroom be equipped with doors that can be locked from the inside by a teacher.  He acknowledged that it would be an expense and maybe it could be a requirement on new construction and renovations.  Other Working Group members suggested a dead bolt being installed so the cost burden isn't too excessive.  But there were concerns from fire marshals about conflicts with fire code and safety.

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Congresswoman addresses teacher strikes during discussion on underfunding of schools

The U.S. Committee on Education & Labor held a hearing recently on the chronic underfunding of America’s public schools.  5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes is a member of the group. 

The 2016 National Teacher of the Year says she wanted to help the committee understand the educator uprisings in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Arizona, Kentucky, Los Angeles and in Denver.  She said if Congress thinks teachers are striking for salaries alone, then they don't get it. 

Walkouts have been started this school year over pensions, crumbling infrastructure and having top buy supplies with their own money. The committee touted the Rebuild America’s School Act as not only helping students, but also the economy. By investing more than $100 billion in school infrastructure, they say this bill would create 1.9 million good-paying jobs for local workers.

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Brookfield officials approve tax abatement for Branson Ultrasonics

Branson Ultrasonics has made an application under Brookfield's Business Incentive Tax Ordinance for a deferral of assessment increases from any improvements to 101 Park Ridge Road.   The company plans to relocate its Danbury headquarters plant into a 13 acre parcel of Berkshire Corporate Park located in Brookfield.  The Board of Selectmen adopted the Tax Abatement Agreement with Branson Ultrasonics earlier this month.  First Selectman Steve Dunn says the company will be a great corporate citizen for the town.  He notes that if Branson was fully taxed, it would generate $1.2 million a year in taxes, a significant portion of the town's typical $20 million budget.  The Connecticut Innovations business assistance fund previously approved $1.4 million in sales tax exemptions for purchases supporting the move.  The company, owned by Emerson Electric, makes precision custom welding machines.  They plan to employ 220 people at its new headquarters.

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Improvements along Danbury roadway planned by DOT

Intersection improvements on Newtown Road in Danbury between Old Newtown Road and Plumtrees Road are still in the works.  The state Department of Transportation is looking to provide safety improvements between Eagle Road and Industrial Plaza Drive as well.

Proposed work consists of widening Newtown Road from the Public Works Complex to Plumtrees Road.  There would be two through lanes in each direction and exclusive left-turn lanes at the two intersections.  The widening would also incorporate a raised median between Old Newtown Road and Plumtrees Road, wider shoulders, and upgraded pedestrian facilities.  The islands are proposed to prevent people from making left turns, which the DOT says has led to a high crash rate in that section of road.  The intersection at Old Newtown Road would be normalized and a new driveway providing access to the Public Works Complex and future commercial development is proposed on its south side. 

Michael Calabrese, a Project Manager of the Highway Design Unit of the DOT, says the work will also include turn around movement at the intersections of Plumtrees and Old Newtown which will allow people to access those businesses.

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Newtown officials correct record on turning private road public

Lakeview Terrace in Newtown is mostly a private road, but the upper portion is slowly being accepted in to the public road system.  About three years ago the Board of Selectmen voted to take the road public. But Selectman Herb Rosenthal made the motion as Lakeview Drive, which isn't the proper name.  There's a project on the street so the current Board had to redo the motion and correct the record, even though there is no Lakeview Drive.  First Selectman Dan Rosenthal joked not to blame him and said he gave his dad a hard time about it.  The correction was made earlier this month for land record purposes.

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Bills on paid family leave, expanded broadband service advance out of committees

The state Labor and Public Employees Committee has advanced a paid Family Medical Leave to the Senate.  Danbury Senator Julie Kushner says under the program, all employees in Connecticut would have .5 percent of  their weekly paycheck put into a state-run trust fund, so the employee could be paid during approved leave.  

The governor’s proposal called for an employee earning 90 percent of their typical wages, up to $600 per week, for anyone making around $15 an hour and 67 percent, up to $900, for workers earning more than that.

A proposal to increase competition in the broadband market in order to bring lower prices and better products to Connecticut has been advanced out of the Energy and Technology committee.  Kent Representative Maria Horn backs the bill. 

Comptroller Kevin Lembo says this moves toward the state's ultimate goal of universal access to ultra-high speed internet service at affordable prices.  The measure would give municipalities more control over the types of services available to their residents and implement regulatory changes that will help new companies enter the marketplace.

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Local lawmakers weigh in on work by Environment Committee

A local lawmaker is calling on the Environment Committee to take action on a bill, which was up for a public hearing earlier this month.  Bethel Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan cosponsored a bill Prohibiting the Sale of Transfer or Dogs, Cats and Rabbits at Pet Shops that are not from animal welfare organizations. He says the measure is needed to cut off the pipeline of pets bred under inhumane conditions and prevent pet stores from profiting off of cruelly bred animals.  Allie-Brennan says there are 12 pet stores in Connecticut that will be affected.

A proposal to prohibit the distribution of unsolicited marketing flyers has been advanced by the legislature's Environment Committee.  The measure, aimed at preventing litter and the blockage of catch basins, was placed on the House calendar for further action. 

Meanwhile, the Danbury City Council is looking into similar measures.  An ad hoc committee questioned whether the City's current litter ordinance is strong enough or if a new law is needed.  The group says a stiffer penalty for disobeying the law could act as a preventative measure.  Some Council members are concerned that unsolicited materials are a blight issue, others see it as an environmental concern.

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Gov. Lamont addresses tolls, taxes, welcome centers in speech to Danbury Chamber

Welcome Centers in Connecticut will be open for the summer. During Governor Ned Lamont's keynote address to the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce this morning in Danbury, he asked the crowd a rhetorical questions about what kind of welcome is it for people to find porta potties and locked buildings.   

Lamont also talked about Danbury being the gateway to Connecticut along I-84 and the impact of tolls and says he understands the risks to the Danbury-area economy.  He is calling for a public-private partnership.  Lamont believes if private entities are involved in tolling it could further prevent raids of the Special Transportation Fund. 

Lamont is trying to differentiate himself from his predecessor and came off more friendly and less combative.  As a businessman, he touted the business people put in place to run various agencies.  In response to a suggestion that he make 10-percent cuts across departments, Lamont noted that it could be even more because of the expertise he's brought in.  Lamont tapped a former IBM employee to head the agency reviewing all IT in Connecticut. 

He says the income tax is a line in the sand for him and that residents can't afford another hike.  As for his proposed sales tax changes, he is open to negotiations.  Lamont also talked about proposed changes to DMV operations, a debt-diet for the state and bond rating agencies upgrading the outlook for Connecticut, but not yet the bond rating.  Lamont also wants more teachers hired across the state to reduce class sizes.  He suggested more people of color to reflect student populations, and also more men entering the field.  12 companies have already pledged that if Connecticut college graduates stay in Connecticut. they will offer jobs and student loan forgiveness. 

Lamont took questions for about an hour and then stayed after the event to meet with business leaders who wanted to talk further. 

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Friends of the Library book sale in New Fairfield this weekend

The Friends of the Library are holding their semi-annual book sale this weekend in New Fairfield.  On Saturday there is an early bird sale from 9am to 10, with a $10 fee.  Regular hours are from 10am-4pm tomorrow through Monday.  On Sunday a bag of books is $10. On Monday all books are free, though donations are accepted.  All proceeds from the book sale benefit the library. The Friends sponsor programs, buy equipment/furniture not funded by the town and support the library in other ways.

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25 people displaced in Danbury apartment fire

There was a two-alarm fire on Main Street in Danbury overnight.  Firefighters responded to a report of smoke on the 2nd floor of a building.  First responders suspected a fire in the wall and crews were able to quickly extinguish a fire in the floor and wall of the second floor apartments.  Damage was kept to a minimum, but 25 people were displaced for the night.  The Red Cross responded assisting the residents. No injuries were reported. The Danbury Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the cause of the fire.

(Photo: Rob Fish)

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Sherman man charged with murder

A Sherman man has been arrested and charged with murder.  State Police responded to Church Road early Wednesday morning on a report from 65-year old James Maharg that someone living in his home fell and hit his head on the countertop. 

Due to suspicious circumstances, the Western District Major Crime Squad and Danbury State's Attorney were called to the scene.  An arrest warrant was then granted, also charged Maharg with tampering with evidence.  The warrant was carried out yesterday. 

Bail was set at $2 million.  He is due in court today.

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Accidental death in Southeast

Putnam County Sheriff officials responded to a welfare check Wednesday morning and found the man deceased.  Sheriff Robert Langley says the family of Matthew Meyer were unable to contact him and called for assistance to his Old Route 6 home in Southeast.  Sheriff Deputies located the 55-year old man dead in the home.  The Putnam County Coroner says Meyer’s death was accidental in nature.  No further details were released.

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New Milford man sentenced for tax evasion

A New Milford man has been sentenced for tax evasion.  50-year old William Anderson was ordered to 18 months in prison followed by two years of supervised released. 

Anderson owns a Danbury-based landscaping and excavation business and other related companies.  The U.S. Attorney's Office says he failed to pay more than $1.2 million in federal income taxes on nearly $4 million in income from 2007 through 2014.  According to court documents, Anderson used business income to purchase cashier’s checks to keep income out of his accounts and made misrepresentations on a form that was filed with the IRS about his business checking account. 

Anderson is required to cooperate with the IRS to pay all outstanding taxes, interest and penalties, which total more than $1.7 million.  He is free on bond and was ordered to report to prison on April 24, 2019.

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Proposal to have local reps on Siting Council advances out of Committee

The legislature's Environment Committee has advanced a bill requiring local representation via nonvoting members of the Siting Council for certain projects.  Some Greater Danbury area municipal officials have raised concerns in the past about not being able to have a say in the decision on cell tower placements. Bethel Representatives Raghib Allie-Brennan and Stephen Harding cosponsored the bill.  In Danbury several years ago, there was a proposal for a rooftop cell tower on an existing apartment building and the company petitioned for a ruling that no Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need was required.  New Milford officials have filed an appeal with the Connecticut Siting Council over their ruling to allow Ameresco's 20-megawatt solar farm on Candlewood Mountain to go forward.

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Bethel Board of Finance trims proposed budget for coming year

The Bethel Board of Finance has trimmed the proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.  After hearing some concerns at the public hearing earlier this week, the Board cut $119,000 from the municipal portion of the plan.  The money is coming from proposed allocations for legal fees, the library, police salaries and other items.  Overall, 250-thousand dollars was cut from the schools original proposal.  The budget still includes a spending increase of nearly 5 percent, with a proposed tax hike of 2.2 percent.  The $78.3 million budget will go to a town meeting on April 1st.

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Western Conn. school officials continuing to look into shared services

Another proposed bill involving school services regionalization has been referred to the legislature's Education Committee.  The measure requires the Regional Education Service Centers to report on best practices for regional cooperation and the sharing of services and develop an inventory of goods and services offered by each. The Council of Small Towns, led by Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi, supports the measure.  The goal of the proposal also deals with purchasing instructional or other supplies, testing materials, special education services, health care services or food or food services.

Bethel Superintendent of Schools Dr Christine Carver says they've always had some capacity to do joint purchasing, and local districts have recently expanded that to include technology.  They're exploring other areas, because towns can get better rates on higher volumes of goods or services.

Special Education services for students, in particular outplacement, is costly.  In Bethel, 23-percent of Carver's proposed budget for the coming year is for those services.  In Redding, she estimates it's as high as 29-percent of the budget.  The Superintendents are looking into how to offer programs at the district level to create fiscal efficiency and provide better special education services.  Their informal group says transportation for outplacement can be as much as 300-dollars per day per child.  Carver suggested ride sharing, if for example Bethel and Redding are each sending students to a school in Trumbull. 

But Carver cautioned that these proposals are complex because of different labor contracts for bargaining units in each town.

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Putnam County Executive address opioids, legalized marijuana in State of the County address

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell focused part of her State of the County address this month on New York's consideration of the legalization of recreational marijuana.  She believes relying on marijuana to solve the state’s fiscal issues is financially unsound and socially irresponsible. 

Odell says Colorado's predicted revenue windfall was short of what was promised and that the cost to mitigate the effects of legalization outpaced tax revenue taken in.  Odell said the  number of fatal car accidents in Colorado increased by 40 percent from 2013 to 2015.  And drivers in fatal accidents testing positive for pot rose by 145 percent during that time. 

Odell reported that in Putnam County, opioid deaths dropped from 24 in 2017 to 18 last year.  There have been 71 deaths from overdoses in the past four years. Odell noted that by comparison there were only six deaths from vehicle accidents in 2018 and a total of 21 deaths over the past four years in Putnam County from vehicle accidents. 

She says there were fewer deaths from opioid overdoses last year, in part because of the distribution of 676 Narcan kits, which help reverse the effects of opioids when given to someone who is suffering from an overdose. Emergency and law enforcement personnel are trained in Narcan administration as well as librarians, school officials and many community members as well as family members and friends of many people who have a known addiction. 

Putnam County is involved in a lawsuit against opioid manufacturers and distributors.

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Sandy Hook Cemetery awarded grant for repairs, maintenance

The state Office of Policy and Management has awarded a $2,500 grant to Newtown for repairs to Sandy Hook Cemetery on Riverside Road.  The Newtown Bee reports that the neglected Cemeteries Grant Program funding will be used to make some tilted or fallen tombstones vertical again.  The cemetery doesn't have an association so the town performs routine maintenance.  The 2.3 acre fenced-in burial ground was active from 1813 through 1942. Newtown officials are seeking competitive bids from masons and landscapers for the improvement work, which should be completed by the fall.

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Kent Center School Scholarship Fund reports record donations

The Kent Center School Scholarship Fund is having its best fundraising year in several years. To date, 185 donors have contributed a total $30,406.  The Fund Drive officially runs until June 30th.  Over the past 58 years, the Fund has awarded 1,289 scholarships for a total of $1,435,974.  The Fund continues to receive memorial donations, and now has 25 named scholarships, which honor many former Kent residents.

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Connecticut tolls clear first legislative vote of session

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut lawmakers voted Wednesday to advance legislation that could lead to electronic tolls on some highways, but it remained unclear whether 2019 is the year tolling legislation will finally pass the General Assembly.

During a closely watched vote, Republican and some Democratic members of the Transportation Committee voiced varied concerns about the three tolling bills up for vote and how their constituents would be impacted. Each bill cleared along party lines, 23-13, with Democrats in support and Republicans in opposition.

“At the end of the day, we’re talking about some of these people’s bottom line,” said Rep. Travis Simms, D-Norwalk, who voted in favor of the legislation Wednesday, but reserved the right to vote no later in the session.

Each bill awaits further action in either the House of Representatives or Senate. But lawmakers said they expect various parts of each bill, which would toll both cars and trucks on Interstates 95, 91, 84 and sections of Route 15 possibly as soon as 2023, will be crafted into one cohesive proposal. Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s tolling proposal was among the bills that cleared the committee.

“At the end of the day, it’s about narrowing to come up with the best plan possible, if one exists, to move forward,” said Sen. Carlo Leone, D-Stamford, the committee’s co-chairman.

Opponents vowed to step up the political pressure on lawmakers in hopes of derailing tolls yet again. Patrick Sasser, founder of the grassroots organization Say No to CT Tolls, said the focus will now be on legislators in districts where they “barely have made it” in the last election.

“We’re going to start hammering on the areas where the working class, where this really affects them. This is going to be our next movement after today’s vote,” said Sasser, whose group has collected more than 86,000 petitions opposing tolls. He said his group plans to hold protests, knock on doors and educate people about the legislation. He said many taxpayers don’t realize the extent of the proposals, which involve dozens of tolling gantries.

The final number and locations of gantries remain unsettled and the state would still need federal approval before tolling could occur. The various plans include discounts for state residents and off-peak drivers.

Whatever the final bill looks like, advocates stressed how Connecticut needs a new, reliable revenue stream dedicated to addressing the state’s aging transportation infrastructure, which everyone appeared to agree must be fixed.

“We cannot wait on the feds to act in order to come in and save the day, so to speak,” Leone said, adding how Connecticut has a “desperate need” for the new transportation revenue. “We cannot allow our public safety to be at risk, for bridges to fall or for someone to get hurt.”

Leone noted how out-of-state drivers help pick up the tab, estimating 30-to-40 percent of the revenue would come from out-of-state drivers, a figure questioned by some Republicans.

Rep. Gail Lavielle, R-Wilton, complained that lawmakers still don’t know what they’re actually voting on.

“There is not a concrete proposal in this bill,” she said. “I don’t know how many tolls I’m voting for, where they’re going to go, how many of them, what they will cost, what they cost people to drive through, how they will be priced, what it cost to operate them, let alone install them and what exactly will they bring in.”

The issue of tolling has been debated in the state legislature for numerous years. Proponents are hopeful this could be the year something passes, especially considering Lamont has been an outspoken supporter of tolling.

On Wednesday, the new governor urged members of the business community to “stand up” for the concept, arguing that transportation infrastructure is crucial to improving the state’s economy.

Lamont, who took office in January, had campaigned on truck-only tolls during the recent election. But he is now pushing for the wider-ranging tolls, arguing that truck-only tolls would not generate enough revenue. His administration estimates truck-only tolls would raise $200 million annually while tolls on cars and trucks could generate about $800 million annually.

Lamont on Wednesday also noted how a federal judge dismissed a lawsuit Tuesday over Rhode Island’s new truck tolls, finding that the court lacked jurisdiction and the case should be brought in the state court system. Lamont had hoped to get some clarity about the constitutionality of truck-only tolls from that case.

“I think this is going to be locked up in the courts in Rhode Island now for years to come,” he said. “That doesn’t help us.”

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Danbury Spring Leaf Pick-Up program to being next month

Danbury’s Spring Leaf Pick-Up Program will begin on April 15th.  The collection will run for 6 weeks through May 24th.  Only leaves bagged in Paper Leaf Bags with no tape should be left curbside for the city’s Highway Department to pick-up.  Branches will be picked up separately.  They must be shorter than 4 feet and no larger than 4 inches in diameter.  Branches must be bundled with twine, no heavier than 35 pounds.  No large debris, grass, rocks, dirt, garbage or animal waste will be collected. Ferris Mulch Products accepts leaf bags, tree, and organic yard debris from Danbury residents at their Plumtrees Road facility.

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Putnam County Sheriff's Office member graduates from FBI National Academy Program

A member of the Putnam County Sheriff's Office was among 250 law enforcement officers who graduated from the FBI National Academy Program at Quantico.  Road Patrol Captain Harry Tompkins III was part of the 275th Session of the National Academy.  It's ten weeks of advanced communication, leadership and fitness training for selected officers, who on average, have 21 years of law enforcement experience.  The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office now has 8 active members and 21 past members who have graduated from the FBI National Academy.

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Several Danbury schools named 'Schools of Distinction' by State

Seven elementary schools in Danbury have been named “Schools of Distinction” for the 2017-18 school year by the Connecticut Department of Education.  According to a recent report that outlines the specifics of a new accountability system, Hayestown Avenue, Mill Ridge Primary, Morris Street, Great Plain, Shelter Rock, Ellsworth Avenue and Western Connecticut Academy of International Studies schools were all noted for their performance or growth in student success.

The recognition was given to 130 schools in the top 10 percent of the state for performance and growth.  

Shelter Rock showed growth in all five areas and in all students and was named as a high performance and high growth school in ELA and math, and high growth with high needs students also in ELA and math. Hayestown Avenue, Morris Street and Ellsworth were recognized as high growth schools; AIS and Mill Ridge were recognized as high performance schools. 

The schools will be recognized at the March 27 Board of Education meeting

 

 

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Volunteer fire companies in Danbury consider consolidation

For years in their annual status report, the Danbury Fire Department has recommended that some volunteer fire companies be consolidated because of aging and outdated fire houses.  The Newstimes reports that the dwindling numbers of volunteers has forced the companies to more seriously consider how to effectively coordinate firefighters.  Water Witch Hose Company No. 7 unanimously voted to join Padanaram Hose, Germantown and Beaver Brook Volunteer Fire Companies.  Discussions are reportedly in the early stages and there was no decision on which firehouse would be the main headquarters for the volunteers and where to store each piece of equipment.  Danbury has five career and the 12 volunteer fire stations.

 

 

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Settlement reached between 5 men, Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport

A settlement has been reached in the case of 5 men who claim they were sexually abused as children by priests.  The Roman Catholic Diocese of Bridgeport has agreed to pay $3.55 million for the alleged abuse from the 1980s to the early 2000s.  The Connecticut Post reports that the lawsuits were filed against the Reverend Walter Coleman, the Reverend Robert Morrissey and the Reverend Larry Jensen, in Bridgeport, Brookfield, Danbury and Ridgefield.  A change of law in 2002 extended the statute of limitations for filing lawsuits from 5 years to until the alleged victims reaches the age of 48.

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Candlewood Lake Authority Marine Patrol to host safe boating course

The Candlewood Lake Authority Marine Patrol is holding a combination Safe Boating and Personal Watercraft Handling course.  The education is required in order to obtain a Safe Boating Certificate, which is required to legally operate a boat with an engine or motor on Connecticut waterways for more than 60 days. In addition, to legally operate a personal watercraft, regardless of state residency, people must possess a Certificate of Personal Watercraft Operation to operate on Connecticut waters.  The two day course is taught by instructors from the Candlewood Lake Authority Marine Patrol.  The course is Friday 5pm to 9pm and Saturday 8:30am to 12:30pm at Sail Harbour Club Clubhouse in New Fairfield.  Registration is required and class size is limited. The course is $25 per person.

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Danbury middle school teacher to receive national educator award

A Rogers Park Middle School teacher in Danbury will be presented with a national award at the National Education Association’s convention this summer.  Luanelly Iglesias is the recipient of the George I. Sanchez Memorial award, given annually to an educator who promotes education for Hispanic children.

An educator for 16 years, she is a dually certified bilingual and math teacher.  During her 4 years at Rogers Park, school officials say Iglesias has been an integral part of the ELL program.  She works closely with students to improve their language skills and ultimately do better in school.

Iglesias moved from Puerto Rico to Connecticut without being fluent in English when she was 18 and became a social worker assistant at the Department of Children and Families before earning a degree and becoming a full-fledged social worker.

 

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WERACE program facilitator named Leader of the Year by adult ed organization

The Connecticut Association for Adult and Continuing Education has named a program facilitator at the Western Connecticut Regional Adult Education center “Leader of the Year.’   The adult education oversight organization chose Jody Huzina for her contribution in Danbury and for her volunteerism and work on numerous committees and projects at the state level. She will receive the award at the annual conference March 28th.  Huzina has been with Danbury Public Schools for 10 years, the last eight at WERACE.  She serves as GED and testing program coordinator, grant and financials coordinator, and overall program manager. Most recently, she has focused on community engagement in an effort to expand ESL, transitions and workforce programming.

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WCSU to mark Women's History month with presentation on WWII contributions

Western Connecticut State University will celebrate Women’s History Month with a presentation by Emmy Award-winning director Kirsten Kelly tomorrow morning.  History Department co-chair Marcy May says she will screen clips and discuss her current documentary project about women’s work during WWII, those ‘Rosie the Riveters,’ offering a way to explore women’s contributions to society. The 11am event in White Hall on the Midtown campus is free and open to the public.

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Climate and Human Civilization lecture series starts at WVSU

The Jane Goodall Center for Excellence in Environmental Studies at West Conn is hosting a five-part series of weekly lectures by faculty and students from the university and Danbury High School about Climate and Human Civilization. 

The series started last night and continues through April 16th. 

The first three talks are aimed at providing scientific evidence of changes in the Earth’s climate and exploring its impact including wild fires, natural disasters and species evolution and survival. The final two talks in the series will discuss constructive environmental actions that can be taken at the individual and community levels, and will examine the human costs of climate change.

All lectures will be Tuesdays at 7pm in Room 125 of the Science Building on the university’s Midtown campus.

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Ridgefield student charged for making threat on social media

A Ridgefield High School student has been charged with juvenile threatening and breach of peace.  Police said in a press release that they were alerted by several staff members to a threat made on social media March 13th by a student.  The Ridgefield Press reports that the juvenile was charged on Friday.  Capt. Shawn Platt says the juvenile was identified by school officials and, at no time during this incident were school students and staff in danger.  The student will be in court on the 25th.

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Congressman continues 'Jim On Your Job' series in Ridgefield

4th District Congressman Jim Himes is spending the day in Ridgefield today. 

He is starting the morning off at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, which was founded in 1964 by an avid collector of and advocate for contemporary art.  From there he'll continue his series dubbed "Jim On Your Job."  Himes will join the staff of the Ridgefield Library to learn about library operations. As a part of the visit he will be checking out books, shadowing staff, and visiting the library’s weekly “Baby and Me” class. 

Later this afternoon Himes will be joined in Wilton by Senator Blumenthal.  The pair plan to meet with gun safety advocates to discuss the recent passage of the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019.

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Bethel Fire Marshal outlines Open Burn Permit regulations

With the Spring arriving, the Bethel Fire Marshal's Office is fielding questions, and some complaints, from residents about open burning.  Open Burn Permits are issued by the Fire Marshal's Office throughout the year.  Each permit, costing $2, is valid for four weeks. 

Applications will be put on for inspection of the burn pile the next day that the Fire Marshal is available. 

State regulations for open burning are only of twigs, branches and garden materials.  The permits are not for leaves, land clearing or construction debris.  The burn pile must be no larger than 3' wide by 3' high by 5' long. Burning in a barrel is permitted. The fire must be extinguished by 5pm.  A garden hose or barrel of water must be on hand when burning. 

Before burning, permit holders must call the Bethel Fire Department Communications Operator at 203-778-7415 to find out the Burning Index for the day.

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United Way launches financial stability program for ALICE families

Connecticut United Ways have joined together to promote financial stability for working families statewide by launching ALICE Saves.  It's a new program designed to help Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed families develop a lifelong habit of saving and other positive financial behaviors. SaverLife is a financial counseling program operated by the New York-­-based Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners. 

It will be available to help families build emergency savings.  Savers earn $10 for every month that they save at least $20 and have the potential to earn up to $60 in rewards at the end of the six-­-month program.  The program is open to all Connecticut residents over age 18 until the end of 2019. 

United Ways found that 40% of Connecticut households cannot afford basic living expenses while 46% do not have enough savings to cover expenses for three months. While 37% of CT residents did not set aside any money for emergencies last year, research shows that families with a savings of just $250 are less likely to be evicted or miss a housing or utility payment.

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Danbury students achieve success at STEM fair

Six students from the Westside Middle School Academy STEM program in Danbury took home prizes at the Connecticut Science & Engineering Fair. 

The event featuring more than 600 students from 120 middle and high schools across Connecticut and New York was held over the weekend at Quinnipiac University.  The 71st annual fair had students competing for more than $200,000 in prizes.  Danbury school officials say for the past four years, WSMSA, led by science teacher and theme coach Jon Neuhausel, has been one of the top three middle school in the state in terms of winning entries.

The following eighth-grade students at Westside were selected for excellence:
• Gabriella Brown, seventh grade, "Design, testing, and optimization of Kombucha scoby-based biofilms: 1st Place- Life Sciences 7th grade; Urban School Challenge Awards Middle School Finalist - Medallion; Peer-to-Peer Awards --- 7th Grade Life Sciences; Broadcom MASTERS National Competition Invitation to Apply


• Annabella Jardim, seventh grade, "Good Up High, Bad Near By”: Physical Sciences 7th Grade Medallion; Office of Naval Research- U.S. Navy / U.S. Marine Corps Award


• Sharva Karthikeyan, eighth grade, "Impact of Microwave-irradiated Plastic on Microbiological Health Indices": Urban School Challenge Awards Middle School Finalist - Medallion


• Srishti Ramakrishnan, eighth grade, "The Study of Effectiveness of Different Separation Methods in Removing Suspended Microplastics from Water": Finalist - Physical Sciences 8th Grade - CSF Medallion; Petit Family Foundation Women in Science & Engineering Awards --- 1st Place- Middle School; Urban School Challenge Awards- 1st Place Middle School; Environmental Sciences Awards -- 3rd Place; Urban School Challenge 1st Place Middle School; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Award; Talcott Mountain Science Center & Academy --- Founder’s Award; Air and Waste Management Association, Connecticut Chapter Award; GENIUS Olympiad Competition (Oswego, NY) for Highest Placing USC 8th grade Project
 

• Maria Eduarda Sousa Lopes, seventh grade, "Molecular Health Indices of the Kalmia latifolia": 4th Place- Life Sciences 7th grade; Urban School Challenge Middle School Finalist - Medallion; Biotechnology Awards Finalist; Talcott Mountain Science Center & Academy --- Founder’s Award; Alumni Botany Award; Broadcom MASTERS National Competition Invitation to Apply
 

• Chase Tomaino, seventh grade, "DIY WiFi Booster": 3rd Place- Physical Sciences 7th Grade; Urban School Challenge --- 3rd Place Middle School; U.S. Air Force Award; Broadcom MASTERS National Competition Invitation to Apply

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Candlewood Lake Authority concerned with updated draft Nuisance Plant Monitoring report

The Candlewood Lake Authority is concerned about the second draft of the Nuisance Plant Monitoring report for 2018 from FirstLight Power Resources.  In a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, CLA Executive Director Mark Howarth says while certain changes are positive, others have not sufficiently addressed their initial concerns.  He also says they've raised new questions. 

In one instance, Howarth says there is missing data from Squantz Pond and Lake Zoar that should be included in the final draft. 

The report says the summers of 2007 and 2013 were the only two with algae blooms.  The CLA questioned what the threshold is for an “algae bloom” because other years have had both large and localized blooms in Candlewood Lake.  They cited the example of one at Sherman Town Park in 2017. 

Howarth says the entire section on the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station Survey Methods misrepresents a lot of the information and methodology of past CAES surveys, and focuses almost exclusively on surveys conducted before 2014, before the sonar system was added. He believes that manipulates the meaningfulness and message of any comparison to past surveys.

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Sen. Blumenthal proposes tax credit for land donations along Appalachian Trail

Senator Richard Blumenthal has introduced the Complete America’s Great Trails Act to help expand and preserve National Scenic Trails.  The Appalachian Trail extends 52 miles across the state from Salisbury in the north to Sherman in the south. 

The legislation would give tax credits to landowners who voluntarily make land contributions towards the completion of America’s national trail system.  Connecticut Forest and Park Association Executive Director Eric Hammerling says the tax credit provides the extra incentive necessary for private landowners to protect the New England National Scenic Trail corridor.  He noted that about 40-percent of the corridor goes through unprotected properties. 

Administered by the National Park Service or the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, National Scenic Trails span 18,249 miles across 30 states and the District of Columbia and host millions of visitors each year.

Since 1968, the total number of trails has grown from only the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails to 11 culturally significant national trails.

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Danbury launches facade improvement grant program for downtown area

A Façade Improvement Grant Program has been launched in Danbury’s Downtown Revitalization Zone.  The grants are aimed at incentivizing private development in the city center area. The maximum amount of any grant is $10,000, with a maximum of $50,000 per property, or 50% of the total façade improvement costs, whichever is less. The reimbursement grants are being offered on a first-come basis.  The Downtown Revitalization Zone includes Main Street from Elmwood Place to Franklin Street, as well as the areas of Ives Street and Lee Hartell Drive. Full eligibility requirements for property owners, tenants and prospective purchasers are included in Program Guidelines, available on the City's website.  Applications must be completed and returned to the Permit Center in City Hall.

 

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Regional planning agency seeks to increase bike trails

The Western Connecticut Council of Governments is developing a Regional Bicycle Plan for a connected bicycle network in the region.  The plan will build on recommendations from existing studies in the region, and will support the North/South and the East/West bicycle connectivity corridors that will become the "backbone" of the network.  Statistics from the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s 2016 Statewide Transportation Study showed that 7.3% of trips taken in Western Connecticut are by bike or on foot.  WestCOG officials say with streets that are safer for bicyclists, and an improved trail system, bicycling will become a more viable means of transportation in the region. The group has a map showing bicycle routes that are under construction, planned, or completed in the region.

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A bill allowing bear hunting in Connecticut has been scaled back greatly, focusing only on helping farmers

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) A contentious proposal to allow bear hunting in Connecticut has been scaled back, now focusing only on farmers whose livestock, poultry and bees are destroyed by the animals.

The General Assembly's Environment Committee voted Monday to amend a bill that would have authorized regulated bear hunting in Litchfield County.

The new version of the bill, which awaits further action by the Senate, updates current law allowing the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner to grant permits for the taking of certain nuisance wildlife that have destroyed crops.

Under the newly revamped bill, damage to livestock, poultry and bees would be added.

The Connecticut Farm Bureau says bears are ``one of those animals that are causing havoc on farms.''

The committee also passed legislation encouraging more non-lethal bear management techniques.

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Local lawmaker proposes bill on diaper changing table equity

A local lawmaker has introduced a bill to make access to diaper changing tables more equitable.  In order to improve the health and safety of children, all new and substantially renovated buildings with public restrooms would be required to provide at least one diaper changing table to women and men per floor. 

Bethel Senator Will Haskell says in the 21st century, parenting is finally becoming more equitable with mothers and fathers sharing responsibilities.  He says if changing tables are available, it's only in women's restrooms.  Haskell says that makes it inconvenient for fathers alone or same-sex male couples to provide for the health and safety of their child.  Men are forced to change their child on unsanitary counters or delay changing the diaper, which can lead to rashes and infections for the child. 

States like California, New York, Oklahoma and Washington have similar laws on the books.  Federal action was taken in 2016 when the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation, or BABIES Act, was signed into law.  It required diaper changing tables in all public federal building bathrooms, including courthouses and post offices.

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Police searching for owner of wedding ring left in pet store

BROOKFIELD, Conn. (AP) Police are asking the owner of a wedding ring found at a Connecticut pet supply store to come forward to avoid being put ``in the dog house.''

Brookfield Police posted on Facebook on Sunday that an honest citizen turned in the wedding ring after finding it at the Petco in town.

They didn't post a photo. Authorities say the owner will need to provide a description of the ring and other details to claim it.

One person responded to the post, saying it may belong to an 87-year-old man who received it from his grandfather.

Police say they will provide an update if the ring's owner is found.

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Municipal regionalization proposal up for a hearing Wednesday

There's another hearing this week on regionalization proposals in Hartford.  The Governor has presented a bill  dealing generally with regionalization and shared services for local governments.  But Wilton Representative Gail Lavielle says sections of the bill are the same as his proposal for school consolidation.  The public hearing this time though is before the Planning and Development Committee.  Lavielle says this is another opportunity for people who have submitted testimony to the Education Committee to speak out about regionalization bills.  Wednesday's hearing is at 11am.

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Ridgefield Commission for Accessibility looking for new members

The Ridgefield Commission for Accessibility is looking for new members.  The group provides recommendations to the Selectmen and other Ridgefield officials on matters pertaining to the rights and needs of disabled citizens and reasonable accommodations to their special needs.  Ideal candidates would pro-actively advocate further improvements in current public facilities and accommodations which, although not required by statute in some cases, would provide disabled citizens with the means for more independent and safe access throughout Ridgefield.  Meetings are held every second Monday of the month at 5pm in the Town Hall Large Conf Room.  Interested candidates are asked to contact the First Selectman's office via email.

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Wilton Police achieve Tier 1 accreditation status

The Connecticut Police Officer Standards and Training Council recently approved the Wilton Police Department’s Tier-1 Accreditation status.  The State Accreditation program is designed to help law enforcement agencies to operate efficiently and uniformly to reduce exposure to civil liability.  Wilton's status shows the department demonstrated excellence in management and service delivery by complying with 127 standards. The Wilton Police Department is the 37th police agency in the State to hold an active Accreditation status.  CT POST highlighted work to solidify interagency cooperation, formalizing essential management procedures and strengthening crime prevention and control capabilities among others.

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Brookfield VFW to rename hall in honor of Navy SEAL killed in 2007

The Brookfield Veterans of Foreign Wars is looking to name Post 10201's new location after a Brookfield native who was killed while on duty in Iraq.  30-year old Jason Lewis, a Navy SEAL, was killed in July 2007 by an improvised explosive device during a combat mission in Baghdad.  The VFW space in the Sokol Lodge’s building on Candlewood Lake Road will be dedicated in Lewis' name during a ceremony to be held this Summer.  The Brookfield VFW started a GoFundMe page to raise $5,000 for a plaque/memorial, shadow box, and the dedication ceremony.

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Newtown to enter into dispute resolution with architect, construction firm for Community Center of errors

Newtown will enter into “dispute resolution” with the Community Center architect and construction firms QA+M Architecture and Newtown-based Caldwell & Walsh Building Construction. 

There are some delays and possible cost overruns on the project after a number of errors.  The Newtown Bee reports that steel structural elements for the canopy over the senior center entranceway were not included in any original plans. Steel supports for movable partition walls were also not included in original plans. The rooms are already completed and they have to be installed in the ceilings.  There's also missing steel work and supports integral to the community center’s front and rear entrance ways. 

If mediation is not successful, then the parties generally can move to arbitration.

The Newtown Public Building and Sites Committee can only sign off on bills for projects that do not put the work over the amount approved by voters.  When lanes were added to the lap pool and the multipurpose room expanded, some value engineering had to be done.  Officials are looking at ways to either value-engineer the remaining work, or figure out other ways to pay the bills.

First Selectman Dan Rosenthal says they've identified a number of items that could be reclassified to free up some project budget.  There are other things the town could take on, like paving.  If Public Works crews do the paving, he acknowledged that it's still a cost taxpayers have to take on.  He says it's not just the salary of town employees doing the work, but not having them available to work on something else and the contribution of materials.  Top soil work will also be done in house. 

The overall goal is to make sure the project is fully enclosed and has fully operational heating and ventilation systems.  He says items like furniture, kitchen equipment and a security package are not critical to completion of the building and could be pushed off.  Rosenthal says other funding sources can be identified for those items.  But he believes the security package change order is a priority. It will allow for cameras, keyfab access, though there will be a manual key as well, and will allow the building to be locked remotely. 

Rosenthal says while the patio and fire pit would maximize the rental potential, there are higher priorities, integral to the building. 

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Public hearing today on state proposal in response to Cricket Valley concerns

A public hearing is being held today at the state capitol on a bill requiring an air quality study in towns that may be impacted when the Cricket Valley Energy Center comes on line.  Kent Representative Maria Horn and Danbury Senator Julie Kushner co-sponsored the measure.  The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection would have to provide technical assistance and support to any municipality that purchases, leases or uses air monitoring equipment in order to establish an air quality baseline, and then determining any effect by the Dover Plains plant.  DEEP could provide information on best practices for creating the baseline, guidance on placement of the monitors, and information on best practices to assure the accuracy of the monitors.  The  Environment Committee hearing on the bill is scheduled for 11am.

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Danbury cocaine dealer pleads guilty to federal gun charge

A Danbury man has pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime.  The arrest stemmed from a drug sale in Stamford in September.  The U.S. Attorney's Office says Police searched a backpack belonging to 28-year old Fernando Rodriguez and found 58 grams of cocaine and 116 grams of marijuana.  A search of a secret storage compartment in his car turned up  an additional 100 grams of cocaine, a 9mm handgun, and a loaded 9mm magazine.  Rodriguez has been detained since his federal arrest on January 10th and he is set to be sentenced June 7th.  Rodriguez faces a mandatory minimum term of five years in prison and a maximum term of life.

 

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Possibly suicidal person prompted road closures in Danbury Friday around Park Ave School

Danbury Police have released details about an incident Friday that led to a precautionary shelter in place order at Park Avenue School.  Police received a call about a possibly suicidal person at a home on Park Avenue near West Wooster Street. 

The person reportedly had a rifle and threatened to shoot themselves. Officers and crisis negotiators were not able to make immediate contact with the person.  SWAT teams secured the area.  Residents from surrounding houses were evacuated for their safety as tactical officers entered the home and found the person uninjured.

The party was transported to the hospital for evaluation. 

Danbury Police thanked the HART Transit Authority for providing a bus for the evacuated residents to wait in until they could return home, and the Fire Police from Danbury Volunteer Fire Companies Engine 12 and Engine 8, who assisted with traffic control during the road closures.

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DEEP rejects Amaresco stormwater management plan for Candlewood Mountain project

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has rejected the stormwater management plan submitted for the Candlewood Mountain solar project in New Milford.  The approval was needed before the 60,000 solar panel plan by Amaresco could move forward.  DEEP called the stormwater analysis “flawed” and said the plan didn't meet the permit requirements on providing information about erosion and sediment controls.  DEEP also says it lacks a detailed construction sequencing, grading and phasing plan to prevent adverse downstream impacts.  New Milford officials have been concerned about about 80 acres of trees, including 54 acres of core forest, being clear cut.  The Connecticut Siting Council is still reviewing the development and management plans.

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Kent firefighters receive technology grant

The Kent Volunteer Fire Department has received a technology grant from Walmart. 

The $500 will be used to purchase two Apple iPads for use on fire trucks.  Fire officials say the new technology will put critical tools at their fingertips - to access building pre-plans, locate nearest hydrant or water source to the location of the emergency, and see what other members are responding to a call. 

Firefighters will also be able to access federal database for identifying Hazardous Materials and an app to help locate airbags and compressed gas cylinders to aid in faster vehicle extrication. 

Fire Chief Alan Gawel says the department is using technology more and more to rapidly access critical information.  He notes that the iPads will save time and allow firefighters to access the most current data possible, which is vital in critical situations.

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Women's Center names Founders Award recipients

The Women’s Center of Greater Danbury has announced the recipients of this year's Founders Award.  The recipients are Danbury and New Milford Hospitals, which partner with the Women’s Center in caring for domestic violence and sexual assault victims.

It is best practice that the Emergency Department contacts the Women’s Center hotline if they are treating a victim of domestic or sexual violence so the Center can send an advocate to be with the client and immediately link them to services. 

Women's Center officials say this was evident when the hospital recently called on behalf of a domestic violence client who appeared to be in distress.  When the client was discharged, the Women’s Center was able to shelter her in a safe place. During and after her stay at Elizabeth House she was able to receive counseling and safety planning services.  Women's Center officials say the hospital made a life-saving connection that has enabled the victim to live a safe and violent free life.

 

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WCSU High School Summer Arts Intensive summer program accepting applications

West Conn's annual High School Summer Arts Intensive program will be held July 17th through 19th. Students entering grades 9 through 12 this fall are eligible to register online for enrollment in one of three workshops at the Visual and Performing Arts Center on West Conn's Westside campus.  Workshops offered this summer are photography, Caribbean steel-pan music performance and musical theatre. Class capacity is limited to 16 students for each workshop.

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Metro North to ban alcohol on trains today

With New York City’s annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade scheduled for Saturday, the MTA is reminding customers that alcohol will be banned from Metro-North Railroad.  Any alcoholic beverages found by the MTA Police will be confiscated.  Metro-North will operate extra trains to accommodate increased ridership on Saturday morning.  One additional train from Southeast, and one from North White Plains, plus one extra from New Haven, and one from Stamford will be on the schedule.  With large crowds expected, Metro North urged customers to buy round trip tickets in advance at their home stations or via their mobile ticketing app.

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Bethel Rep. advocates for solar jobs

Bethel State Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan is speaking out about a bill passed last year which scheduled the termination of net metering, a critical solar policy, but did not give the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority time to develop replacement policies.  A co-chairman of the Bipartisan Clean Energy Caucus, Allie-Brennan advocated for legislative fixes to save more than 2,200 solar jobs.  he says the solar energy industry represents a significant opportunity for job growth and economic development – two things that Connecticut desperately needs.

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Professional hockey could be back in Danbury this winter

A familiar name is among the partners in the new ownership group for the Danbury Ice Arena.  Herm Sorcher was an owner of the Danbury Whalers, a Federal Hockey League team playing at the area from 2010 through 2015.  The team was the 2013 FHL champions. 

Diamond Properties, a real estate company headquartered in Mount Kisco, has a plan to turn the building into a family entertainment destination center. 

Sorcher says there's a very good chance of professional hockey coming back to Danbury this winter.  He says they want to focus on turning the hockey and skating into one of the top centers in New England. 

The new owners intend on keeping on many of the staff members to continue offering the same programs and services.  The group plans to undertake a significant renovation and upgrade to the facility. 

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Conn. unemployment rate holds steady in January, Danbury area gains jobs

Connecticut’s January unemployment rate is at 3.8 percent seasonally adjusted, unchanged from the revised December level.  The U.S. jobless rate in January 2019 was 4 percent. 

Five of Connecticut's six Labor Market Areas saw job increases in January and only one saw a decline, seasonally adjusted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.  The New Haven area led gainers while both the Danbury and Waterbury areas added 200 jobs to the total. The Hartford region saw a loss of 300 jobs. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Connecticut gained 1,000 net jobs in January.  The December 2018 originally-released job gain of 1,100 remained unchanged. 

Average hourly earnings in Connecticut at $33.09, not seasonally adjusted, were up $1.36.  The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics says that's up 4.3 percent from the January 2018 estimate.  The 12-month percentage change in the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers in January was 1.6 percent.

State Labor Department research director Andy Condon says the January jobs report starts the year on a good note with an increase of a thousand new jobs in Connecticut.  But he says the the annual benchmark revision process by the Bureau of Labor Statistics significantly reduced last year’s job growth figures.

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Putnam County Sheriff K9 graduates from Electronic Storage Device Detection training

The Connecticut State Police K9 Unit is marking its 200th K9 Training Troop, consisting of seven K9 Teams from throughout the country.  The teams are specialized in Electronic Storage Device Detection.  Among the teams graduating today are Putnam County Sheriff’s Investigator John Hyla and K9 Hannah.  The K9s underwent 5 weeks of preliminary training with State Police Instructors before being paired with their respective handlers for an additional 5 week training and certification course of instruction.  The Connecticut State Police K9 Unit trained the world’s first electronic storage device detection K9 in 2012 using a proprietary training methodology and curriculum.

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Inmate assaulted at FCI Danbury transferred to NY prison

A white former Chicago police officer convicted in the high-profile murder of an African American teenager has been moved to a New York federal prison, according to ABC Chicago.   Jason Van Dyke was beaten in his cell at Danbury Federal Correctional Institution a month ago.  According to the Federal Bureau of Prisons records, he was recently moved to Otisville, about 70 miles away.  The 40-year old suffered injuries to his head and face on February 7th at FCI Danbury.  Afterward, his attorneys expressed a concern for his safety at FCI Danbury.  Van Dyke was convicted in October in the 2014 killing of Laquan McDonald.

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Danbury Police, Firefighters visit DHS Little Hatters preschool class

Some Danbury school children got a visit from police earlier this week.  On Tuesday, State Police K9 "Texas" visited the Little Hatters preschool class at Danbury High School. The preschool is part of the child development education program.

Preschoolers and high school students learned about safety and the role of Texas, a bloodhound, in the police department. Danbury police officer Pete Elste and State Police officer Ed Anazewski also let students explore a police car. 

(Photo: DPD)

Members of C Platoon of the Danbury Fire Department also visited Danbury High School's preschool Program yesterday.  Firefighters taught the group about fire safety and what firefighters do on a daily basis.

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Danbury Board of Ed accepting applications to fill vacancy

Applications are now being accepted to fill a vacancy on the Danbury Board of Education, due to the resignation of Democrat Farley Santos who was appointed to the City Council.  Danbury residents over age 18 of any political party interested in applying for this vacancy should send a letter of application to the Danbury Board of Education by March 28th.  The term of office will be until the next regular election in November.

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4 men arrested for vandalizing Brewster HS field

Four men have been arrested for vandalizing the Brewster High School baseball field. Putnam County Sheriff Deputies responded to a report of a vehicle doing “donuts” on the field on Sunday, and found the car stuck in the grass.  The driver caused about a thousand dollars worth of damage.  19-year old Cole Crandell of Southeast was charged with trespassing and felony criminal mischief.  The occupants of the car, 19-year olds Tino Surace and Brian Milano, both of Southeast, and Nicholas Leahy of Patterson were charged with Trespass.  All four are scheduled to appear in court at a future date and time.

(Photo: PCSD)

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Danbury Ice Arena owners sell facility after nearly two decades

The operators of the Danbury Ice Arena have sold the facility after 18 years of ownership.  The Hall Family and Kevin McCormack issued a statement saying they have enjoyed being part of the Danbury community and providing family oriented activities and programs for so many people over the years.   The Arena has been sold to a new ownership group, Diamond Properties, which is keeping on many of the staff members to continue offering the same programs and services.  The group plans to undertake a significant renovation and upgrade to the facility.  Diamond Properties, a real estate company headquartered in Mount Kisco, also operates Grand Prix New York Racing, Spins Hudson, and the Spins Bowl chain of entertainment centers. 

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New Milford to set up air quality monitors ahead of Cricket Valley opening

Several New Milford residents have raised concerns about air quality once the Cricket Valley Energy Plant opens in nearby Dover Plains.  Mayor Pete Bass says the town will partner with Canterbury School to measure, monitor, and record certain air quality parameters.  The data will be complied and assessed to determine whether changes might be occurring in local air quality.  Health Director Mike Crespan and Canterbury School helped bring the partnership together.  A monitor is already up and running at Kent School.  Opponents of Cricket Valley hope to set up a regional air quality monitoring network.

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Congresswoman introduces bill clarifying federal funding and guns for teachers rules

5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes has introduced legislation to clarify that the U.S. Department of Education cannot allow school districts to use federal funds to arm teachers. Last year, reports indicated that the Secretary of Education would no longer prohibit school districts from using federal funds to purchase firearms or provide firearms training for teachers.  Hayes, the 2016 National Teacher of the Year, says people like her husband--a Waterbury Police Officer--shouldn't have to make the split second decision on whether an armed person is the bad guy or is a teacher.

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Edmond Town Hall undergoes renovation

Edmond Town Hall Theatre is being renovated.  The Newtown facility will have various theater and staging components repaired or replaced over the course of four weeks.  This includes rigging, curtains and railings among other things. 

All theater activities, including movies, ceased as of Monday, but all other building activities, including space and event rentals, will continue as usual.

The repairs are part of ongoing efforts to enhance safety and upgrade the facility.   Officials say the work will also improve the theater’s ability to host more live performances, provide new offerings to audiences, and help to grow attendance. 

Edmond Town Hall, completed in 1931, is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.  Event rentals, live shows, movies and a modest disbursement from a trust fund provide most, but not all of the buildings operating expenses.  A “Dark Night Cabaret” series is being planned for four Fridays in March in the Alexandria Room in a nod to the theater’s past, when it would go dark one night each week to replace the movie reels in preparation for the upcoming movie.

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Construction manager for Sandy Hook School selected to oversee police station project

Newtown officials have signed a contract with Consigli Construction Company to oversee new police station project.  The same firm was the construction manager for the on-time and under-budget new Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Of the 11 bids reviewed, Consigli was the lowest.  4 semi-finalists were interviewed, but Consigli had an existing relationship with the town.  Newtown Police will move into a renovated 191 South Main Street vacant building once renovations have been made.

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Ruling against gun-maker draws mixed reaction

Gun control advocates and gun rights supporters have conflicting opinions about a Connecticut Supreme Court ruling that reinstated a lawsuit against gun-maker Remington and how it marketed the rifle used on 12/14.

The state high court ruled 4-3 Thursday that part of a lawsuit by victims' families alleging wrongful marketing can proceed, despite a 2005 federal law that shields gun-makers from liability in most cases when their products are used in crimes.

Gun control advocates are touting the ruling as providing a possible roadmap for victims of other mass shootings to circumvent the long-criticized federal law, which has blocked lawsuits over other mass shootings.

Gun rights supporters say the decision is judicial activism and overreach and predict the lawsuit will ultimately fail.

Remington is declining to comment.  A spokesman for the Madison, North Carolina, company says it would not be commenting on Thursday's ruling and there is no timetable for a public response. Messages were left with lawyers representing the company.

The mother of one of the children killed at Sandy Hook School says a new court ruling is a step toward holding Remington accountable for the way it marketed the rifle.  Nicole Hockley said Thursday that Remington and other gun makers need to stop gearing their advertising toward troubled young men.  Ian Hockley says all they want is their day in court and for a jury to decide their case.

Bill Sherlach lost his wife, Mary, in the shooting. She was the school psychologist.  He says this is another step forward in the discovery process to peel back the layers of the corporate entity and find out what their objectives were under the marketing of this particular product.

David Wheeler lost his son, Ben. He's pleased that they'll be able to look into the marketing of AR-15 style rifles.  He says there's a reason this particular product is the one that's used by people who want to inflict the most damage, and there's examples of that time and again.

Attorney Josh Koskoff acknowledged that the court ruled out most arguments because of a law that protects gun makers from liability when their products are used in a crime.  He says nobody is above the law and the company should not engage in reckless marketing of a dangerous product.  Koskoff says instead of promoting violence use of weapons, he wants Remington to get engaged and protect the public.

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Trash compactor fire causes smoke condition inside Danbury Hospital

An automatic fire alarm sounding at Danbury Hospital was triggered by smoke on the first floor from a dumpster on fire adjacent to the old emergency room entrance.  The incident was escalated to a first alarm assignment, which brought in additional fire units.  Arriving firefighters located an active trash compactor fire close to the building.  Oak Ridge Waste & Recycling was requested to the scene with a roll off truck to remove the compactor. Firefighters escorted the truck to their yard on White Street where the the load was dumped, spread out and further extinguished.

(Photo: DFD)

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Two men arrested for alleged copper theft in Newtown

Newtown police were called by concerned citizen last night about two men allegedly stealing copper from inside a secured vacant building on the Fairfield Hills campus.  Police surround the building and apprehend one of the suspects, but the other fled the area just before officers arrived.  But the second suspect was apprehended with the help of Shelton Police, who were waiting for him at his home.  49-year old John Rodia and 53-year old John Marlin were charged with burglary, larceny and criminal mischief among other crimes.  They were released after posting bond.

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Redding Police shave head to raise childhood cancer awareness

Redding Police Chief O'Donnell isn't the only bald officer on duty.  Several Officers lost their locks to help raise money for childhood cancer research at Monday's St Baldrick event at Joel Barlow High School.  School Resource Officer Anthony Signore said, "if the look works for the Chief I'm gonna kill it." Officer Chris Vadas asked "do you really think the look works for the Chief?"

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Serymour man files CHRO complaint against Newtown Police

A Seymour man has filed a complaint with the state Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities against the Newtown Police Department.  George Tarby III claims police have failed to address complaints and Freedom of Information requests, exhibiting an ongoing pattern of harassment. 

The Newtown Bee reports that Tarby claims to be a victim of post-traumatic stress disorder after he was arrested and hospitalized without his consent.  A criminal case against Tarby is pending in Superior Court for a March 27th arrest by Newtown police on charges of breach of peace and creating a public disturbance.  He is due in court on May 10th.  The Bee reports that over the summer Tarby got into a dispute with a residential property owner and is now homeless. 

Police and the town's attorney say they don’t comment on pending legal cases.  The Connecticut Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities has a goal of eliminating discrimination through civil and human rights law enforcement and to establish equal opportunity and justice for all persons within the state through advocacy and education.

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Court rules gun maker can be sued over Newtown shooting

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) A divided Connecticut Supreme Court has ruled gun maker Remington can be sued over how it marketed the Bushmaster rifle used to kill 20 children and six educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012.

Justices issued a 4-3 ruling that reinstated a wrongful death lawsuit and overturned a lower court ruling that the lawsuit was prohibited by a 2005 federal law that shields gun manufacturers from liability in most cases when their products are used in crimes.

The plaintiffs include a survivor and relatives of nine people killed in the massacre. They argue the AR-15-style rifle used by shooter Adam Lanza is too dangerous for the public and Remington glorified the weapon in marketing it to young people.

Remington has denied wrongdoing and previously insisted it can't be sued under the federal law.

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Ailing man who got his wish for a call from Trump dies at 44

WEST HAVEN, Conn. (AP) - An ailing Connecticut man who had a bucket-list wish fulfilled when he received a call of encouragement of President Donald Trump has died.

Jay Barrett of West Haven was 44. He was terminally ill with cystic fibrosis and had been receiving palliative care at the home of his sister, West Haven City Councilwoman Bridgette Hoskie. Hoskie says her brother died Wednesday.

Hoskie, a Democrat, went on social media to build a campaign for Trump to offer her brother a gesture of support. Last week, the president called Barrett, telling him, "You're my kind of man, Jay."

Hoskie says she appreciated the help of everyone who reached out to the White House on her brother's behalf. She says: "That phone call meant everything to him."

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Lawmakers want to revisit vaccination religious exemptions

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Some Connecticut lawmakers, including the House Speaker, want the General Assembly to consider eliminating a provision in state law that allows parents and guardians to exempt their children from immunizations for religious reasons.

Democratic House Speaker Matt Ritter of Hartford had pushed for a 2015 law change, requiring parents and guardians who submit statements that immunizations violate their child's religious beliefs to have those statements "acknowledged" annually by a notary public, justice of the peace or other officials.

Ritter said Wednesday that change hasn't really helped address the problem of a growing number of unvaccinated, kindergarten-age children entering Connecticut public schools. Ritter says he guesses the vast majority don't have religious concerns with vaccinations.

Upset parents are gathering at the Capitol, saying this effort infringes on their religious liberties.

 

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President signs legislation protecting Connecticut watershed

STONINGTON, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut river has gained federal protection due to the recent passage of a public lands package.

President Donald Trump signed a public lands package Tuesday to protect more than 1.3 million acres of land, including 367 miles of rivers. The Day reports part of the legislation included a provision, authored by Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, which designates river segments within the Wood-Pawcatuck watershed as part of the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System.

Classifying a river as "wild" means there is little development in surrounding areas and "scenic" means it is still largely undeveloped, but accessible in places by roads.

The Pawcatuck River flows through Stonington, North Stonington and Westerly. The newly passed law also permanently reauthorizes the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

 

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New Fairfield officials explain several month closure of Saw Mill Road for bridge project

New Fairfield officials are trying to address concerns raised by residents about the upcoming Saw Mill Road closure for a bridge replacement project.  In 2013, the bridge was identified by state and federal transportation officials as “functionally obsolete” and Connecticut required full replacement. 

Part of the reason why the road requires such a long closure is because the utility lines that run above the bridge as well as underground lines must be temporarily relocated and protected during construction. The Fire Department’s dry hydrant located adjacent to the bridge must also be removed during construction and reassembled afterward. 

First Selectman Pat DelMonaco says it's a complex project with both historical and environmental implications. The bridge is 90-years old.  The State and Federal governments have agreed to fund 80% of the cost of replacing the bridge, with the Town funding the remaining 20%. 

The bridge and the approaches are too narrow for the current high volume of traffic, resulting in a high number of car accidents.  The bridge also has a very shallow foundation which is insufficient for the velocity of Ball Pond Brook, which has undermined the bridge footings. The bridge has been under observation since 2005. 

The current bridge is an intermediate size steel arch bridge with stone faced concrete abutments and wing walls which must be dismantled. Water flow will be diverted while the new bridge is under construction. This preparatory work will take approximately 1 month. Construction of 4 abutments will take approximately 3 months.  Utility work and road reconstruction will take approximately 2.5 months. The remaining work will include constructing the approaches to the bridge, paving and landscaping which will take approximately 2 weeks.

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State Police find pot, $10k in car during routine traffic stop in Brookfield

A Danbury man stopped for a routine vehicle law violation was found in possession of more than a pound of marijuana.  State Police conducting traffic enforcement on Route 7 in Brookfield on Tuesday afternoon were alerted to a suspended registration on a passing vehicle. 

The Trooper was using a license plate reader and conducted a vehicle stop. 

27-year old Andrew Ramirez also had a suspended license.  While speaking to Ramirez, Troopers detected a strong order of marijuana.  K9 Favor alerted to the presence of drugs inside of the vehicle. Troopers also found $10,000 in cash.

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Danbury Police to host forum on teen drug use

The Danbury Police Department is hosting a parent forum next week about emerging drug trends among youth.  The discussion will focus on vaping toxicity, the use of vaping devices for THC and marijuana, synthetic drugs and teen alcohol use.  Police will also discuss whether cocaine and LSD are popular again.  The presentation is sponsored by Stand Together Make a Difference.  A Spanish interpreter will be available.  In addition to parents, police suggest teachers, school administrators, guidance counselors and other school staff attend.  The forum will be March 20th in the police department’s community room at 6:30pm.

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Public hearing in Redding tonight on proposed budget

There's a public hearing in Redding tonight about the proposed budget for the coming year.  The meeting will include presentations from the Board of Selectmen, the Redding Board of Education and the Region 9 school board.  Redding Selectmen have proposed a nearly $15-million municipal budget, about $300,000 more than the current year.  The Redding Board of Ed is proposing a 4.69 percent increase in spending to $22.1 million.  The Region 9 budget is slightly lower than this year at $24.2 million.  Tonight's public hearing is at 7:30pm.

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Deadlines set for state lawmakers to vote on proposed school consolidation bills

The Council of Small Towns, led by Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi is providing an update on proposed school regionalization bills.   The Governor's proposal to redistrict and consolidate school districts and services must be acted on by April 1st. 

The Education Committee must vote to fully draft two other proposals by March 15th or they won't be considered further.  Those bills would mandate towns with a population of less than 40,000 to join a regional school district.  The other is about school districts with fewer than 2,000 students. 

There are some new school regionalization bills, which have been referred to the Education Committee.  Redding First Selectman Julia Pemberton says one allows towns to use a five-year lookback period in determining reductions in student enrollment under minimum budget requirements, extends various exemptions from those requirements to 2021, and allows towns to exclude catastrophic insurance losses in the calculation of their budgeted appropriation for education.

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Congresswoman to campaign with Danbury Democratic Mayoral challenger

5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes will be in Danbury Saturday night for a fundraiser to benefit Democrat Chris Setaro, who is running for Mayor. The former city councilman and attorney is looking to unseat 18-year Republican incumbent Mark Boughton.  Hayes won Danbury with 61-percent of the vote in November.  The campaign dinner at the Portuguese Cultural Center costs $45 per person.

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COST to hold forums about proposed legislation impacting the region

The Council of Small Towns, led by Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi, is meeting with state lawmakers to discuss several issues pending before the legislature, including the teachers' pension cost shift, school consolidation proposals, the statewide mill rate, the elimination of the car tax among others.  COST is holding town hall forums in member communities across the state.  There is one in Ridgefield on the 19th at Town Hall from 8am to 9am.

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Public hearing scheduled in Danbury on proposed stormwater ordinance

A public hearing is scheduled for Monday night in Danbury about a proposed Storm Water Ordinance. 

City Council Minority Leader Paul Rotello says if the ordinance language is adopted as written, the new law will create onerous regulations for homeowners.  He says it gives the City the power to obtain warrants to enter private property and there will be no grandfathering and no pre-existing non-conforming protections. 

Rotello is concerned that the proposed ordinance is so extreme it contains language making it illegal to have a driveway connected to a city street and to clean a car using soap and water.  There's also a concern that leaves from homeowners’ trees washing into the street could mean homeowners are liable for that as well.  Rotello says helping to reduce pollution is a worthy goal, but unnecessarily turning every home owner into a violator is excessive and absurd.

Danbury officials are working on the plan to reduce water pollution, in order to comply with new state and federal regulations.  The regulations are connected to Danbury's municipal separate storm sewer system general permit from the state.  The ordinance is meant to allow the City to track pollution found in local waterways back to their source, and notify a polluter to work with them to fix the issue. 

The public hearing on Monday at Danbury City Hall is scheduled for 7pm.  

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Wilton school officials apologize to New Britain over alleged racially charged chant at basketball game

Wilton school officials have apologized to New Britain after reports that some high school students chanted racially charged language at a basketball game Friday. 

Some students reportedly chanted  “black face” at a New Britain student, but Wilton officials say they investigated and that the students were actually chanting the words “leg days” at a New Britain player as he took a free throw.  It was an apparent reference to the player missing leg days in the weight room. 

Wilton school officials apologized to Danbury in 2016 after some students were accused of chanting “build the wall” toward Danbury fans.

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Study published for downtown Danbury revitalization

A 140-page study is out about how to revitalize downtown Danbury.  The $250,000 study was conducted over a year and mostly paid for with state grant funding.  The plan calls for improvements to parks, plazas and intersections, a public art program and creation of a river walk trail along the Still River.  Other recommendations include a transit center at the Danbury Train Station connecting Metro North, HART transit buses and other vehicles.  Another focus is on a revitalized nightlife with incentives  to encourage restaurants and entertainment businesses in the Ives Street corridor.

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Conn. lawmakers hear testimony on youth car thieves, legal changes

The legislature's Public Safety Committee considering a proposal over the coming weeks to toughen penalties on minors that have committed numerous serious criminal offenses like vehicle theft.  Newtown state Representative J.P. Sredzinski says there are many communities across the state seeing an increase in this type of crime.  The proposed law would require that after the fourth felony conviction of a minor, that case would automatically be referred to criminal court.  Sredzinski says this will improve law enforcement officer safety as well as improve overall public safety throughout the state.

 

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Danbury Library to 'Light Up Blue' for Autism Awareness Day

For the third consecutive year, on Tuesday April 2nd, Danbury will join the Autism Awareness Movement to light up the public library blue for Autism, and host awareness focused events for all ages throughout the day.  The Light Up Blue Ceremony, a sensory friendly event, will feature speakers, musical performances and a “light up” moment at the library in honor of World Autism Awareness Day. A lower sound level will be used at the ceremony, attendees with special needs are free to vocalize and walk around, and there will be designated quiet area and ear muffs available.

 

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NY Police to step up DWI patrols for St. Patrick's Day weekend

The Putnam County Sheriff's Office and Carmel Police will be cracking down on impaired driving this weekend.  The statewide STOP-DWI Crackdown efforts start on Friday and will end on Monday. New York State Police, County Sheriffs and municipal law enforcement agencies will be out in force in a coordinated effort to reduce the number of impaired related injuries and deaths this St Patrick's Day weekend.  Sheriff Robert Langley says impaired driving is completely preventable, all it takes is a little planning.  Anyone headed out for St. Patrick’s Day, is encouraged to designate a responsible and sober driver.

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Bethel officials to hold hearing on proposed lease of old police station site

The Bethel Board of Selectmen is holding a public hearing on the 19th about a proposed lease agreement with Rizzo Corporation to use the old police station site on Plumtrees Road as a construction office and for parking for crews working on the Rockwell and Johnson school projects.  Rizzo would pay the town a dollar per year for the two year lease.  The town will supply water and sewer use, fuel for heat and electricity.  The tenant will be responsible for all charges of telephone or internet services, garbage collection and snow removal.  The hearing is at 6:30pm.

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Sen. highlights New Milford company as this week's 'Monday Manufacturer'

Senator Chris Murphy highlighted a New Milford company this week as his Monday Manufacturer.  Aldine Metal Products specializes in custom precision sheet metal fabrication for various parts, including cabinets, consoles, racks, carts and other components. Aldine was founded in 1938 in Brooklyn, moved to Brookfield in 1955 and later settled in its current location in New Milford. 

Aldine routinely works with Naugatuck Valley Community College apprenticeship program to train the next generation of manufacturers in Connecticut.  The company is also is currently working with CONNSTEP to become ISO certified by the end of the year. 

Murphy says Connecticut’s 4,600 manufacturers account for 10% of the state’s jobs and 87% of the state’s total exports.

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Public hearing scheduled in Bethel on proposed budget

A public hearing on the recommended budget for the coming year in Bethel will be held on March 19th at 7pm at the Bethel Middle School Auditorium.  The recommended municipal budget is little more than $32-million.  The proposed Education portion of the spending plan is $46.4 million. 

The budget has a proposed increase in spending of 5.2 percent, but the tax increase is slightly less than half of that, at 2.49 percent.  The proposal includes new revenue to offset some of the tax increase, but the new debt for the police station and the school projects is leading to a lot of the increase. Almost 2 points of the increase is debt only.

Without the new debt, First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says the tax change amounts to .6 percent.

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Ridgefield, Bethel First Selectmen testify on environmental bills in Hartford

The legislature's Environment Committee has held a hearing on a host of bills dealing with single use plastic products.  Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker testified in favor of a bill to ban plastic bags.

Another bill under consideration requires stores to charge customers at least 5 cents per bag. Governor Ned Lamont has called for a 10-cent per bag tax.  Lamont says about one billion plastic bags are used annually in Connecticut, but the recycling rate is approximately 5 percent.

Other bills ban restaurants from providing single-use plastic straws unless requested by a customer. 

Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi testified about a pilot program to pull glass out, which has eliminated 12 to 15 percent of total recycling.  It's cleaned and accepted at a designated destination.  He wants the state to establish a task force to look at how to dispose of waste in Connecticut that's generated in the state, rather than being dependent on foreign countries. 

Regional trash authority Housatonic Resources Recovery Association, and HRRA’s contracted hauler, either incinerate or send recyclables overseas to China.  China is the largest purchaser of recyclable waste, and waste in general, from the US, but recently enacted stricter regulations, rejecting more shipments of recycled materials over contamination.

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Danbury looks to regulate, license massage and spa parlors

Danbury officials are looking to create a law to regulate operations of massage and spa therapy facilities.  An ad hoc committee was formed last week to look into policing power to protect the health and safety of patrons and employees through licensing requirements. 

This comes as the state Labor Department cracked down on dozens of nail salons in other parts of Connecticut for labor abuses, and the owner of the Patriots was caught up in a massage parlor scandal involving human trafficking. 

A proposed ordinance under review in Danbury would go after the owners by giving police and the health department regulatory authority to close a business if it offers massage services as a subterfuge for prostitution and other paid sexual contact. A proposed annual license would require businesses to undergo criminal background checks. 

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Newtown seeks volunteers to serve on boards, commissions

Newtown officials are looking to fill some vacancies on various boards and commissions. Any registered voter is eligible to be an alternate with the Hattertown Historic District.  First Selectman Dan Rosenthal says the Board of Ethics has an alternate position available to a Democrat or unaffiliated voter.  A Republican or an unaffiliated voter is needed on the Community Center Committee, the Sustainable Energy Commission and as an alternate on the Commission on Aging.  Those interested in the community center vacancy should send a resume by Friday. Other roles should be filled by April 15th.

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Medicare benefits education seminar in Bethel this week

There's a Medicare benefits educational meeting in Bethel on Thursday.  A panel of speakers will talk about Medicare’s definition of homebound, benefits for skilled home care, skilled nursing facility care and hospice care.  The group will also discuss the importance of a primary care physician’s input and options that residents have.  The panel will include representatives from Bethel Visiting Nurse Association, River Glen Health Care Center, and Seasons Hospice & Palliative Care.  Participants for the event, which is from 2 to 3pm on Thursday at the municipal center, are asked to RSVP to the Bethel Social Services Department.

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Congressman touts elections transparency bill approval in U.S. House

4th District Congressman Jim Himes is touting House passage of a bill aimed at rooting out corruption and reforming government.  The For the People Act addresses campaign finance reform, election access and government ethics.  Himes says the measure is essential in curbing the influence of big money and foreign entities in  elections and ensuring that elected officials truly represent their constituents.  The bill creates automatic voter registration, expands early voting, and prevents people from unjustly being kicked off voting rolls. It also ensures that voting districts are drawn by independent commissions so voters pick their representatives, not the other way around.

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New Fairfield considers paid EMTs for overnight hours

Part of the New Fairfield budget proposed for the coming fiscal year includes money for overnight emergency medical staff.  The Newstimes reports that the fire department needs paid staff to help at night because of a shortage of volunteers and an increased number of calls.  Paid staff works during the day and on some weekends.  The proposal to add overnight coverage is $145,000.  The New Fairfield budget this year is $13 million, school spending is requested at $43.4 million.  The proposed budget represents a tax rate increase of 3.37 percent.  The New Fairfield Board of Finance is holding a budget meeting tomorrow night.

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Brookfield Police raise over $1K for childhood cancer research

The Brookfield Police Department was able to raise just over $1,300 for St. Baldrick's Foundation, beating their goal of $1,000.  The money will be donate to raise awareness for childhood cancer.  Some members of the Brookfield Police Department shaved their heads during a public event at the high school last week as part of the effort.  The team consisted of BHS School Resource Officer Rountos, Ofc. Hawaux, Ofc. Gerstenmaier, Ofc. Robbins, Ofc. Kyek and Disp. Kulowiec.  Disp. Kulowiec not only raised money for St. Baldrick’s, but she also shaved off her hair and donated it to Locks of Love.

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Small electrical fire at Danbury Mall Thursday caused power outage

There was a small electrical fire at the Danbury Mall Thursday night.  Mall Security was reporting a smoke condition and firefighters were able to find the electrical problem that created a power outage through out half of the mall. Eversource, City of Danbury Electrical Inspector, and the Danbury Fire Marshal's Office all responded.

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Easton Police caution residents to Social Security scams

Easton Police are warning area residents to Social Security Scams and offering tips on how to avoid them.  Some residents have reported receiving a phone call with a recording asking to call a certain number, or from a real person telling you there is an issue with your social security number, or account. These calls are false a great majority of the time. The Social Security Administration will not call, and they will not ask for personal information.  Recipients should asked to speak with a supervisor or for number to return their call.

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Two men charged for drug possession, sale in Danbury

A Southington man and one from Danbury have been arrested on drug related charges in Danbury.  Police set up surveillance Thursday after receiving tips that 26-year old John Fernandez of Southington was selling drugs around the City. Fernandez was seen with another man, later identified as 24-year old Robert Stevenson, in a parked vehicle in the lot of McDonald’s on Padanaram Road.

Police found cocaine packaged for sale, Oxycodone, Methadone pills, Heroin packaged for sale, and other illegal contraband inside the vehicle. 

Both men were released on bond.  

  

(Fernandez, Stevenson)

Fernandez was charged with interfering with duties of Police Officer, possession of less than half an ounce of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession of drug paraphernalia within 1500' of a school, operating with a suspended license and five counts each of possession Controlled Substance, possession Controlled Substance with intent to sell, possession Controlled Substance within 1500' of a school and possession Controlled Substance with intent to sell within 1500' school.

Stevenson was charged with Possession Drug Paraphernalia, Possession Drug Paraphernalia within 1500' school and five counts each of Possession Controlled Substance, Possession Controlled Substance with intent to sell, Possession Controlled Substance within 1500' school and Possession Controlled Substance with intent to sell within 1500' school.

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Danbury residents express overall satisfaction with City in new community survey

Information from the 2018 DataHaven Community Wellbeing Survey shows Danbury residents in good health and satisfied with their community.  The health study was based on in-depth, live interviews with 16,000 randomly selected adults in Connecticut municipalities last year. 414 Danbury residents participated. 

The findings show that Danbury generally aligns with the rest of the state on health and wellness. The study also looked into community life.  Danbury residents answered overwhelmingly in favor of the job done by the police to keep residents safe, Danbury as a place they want to raise children, and satisfaction with Danbury public parks. 

But Danbury did get some slightly negative numbers.  43-percent of respondents strongly disagree that there are safe sidewalks and crosswalks on most of the streets in their neighborhoods.  37-percent strongly disagree that there are places to bicycle in or near their neighborhood that are safe from traffic.

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Freshman lawmaker seeks tax relief for seniors

A Freshman state Senator has co-sponsored legislation that, if approved, would provide tax relief to those who rely upon Social Security.  Will Haskell, whose district includes Redding and Ridgefield, says the bill would put money back into the pockets of retirees who are struggling with the decision about whether or not to stay in the state.  Connecticut is one of just 13 that tax Social Security benefits.  Haskell says every $1 spent on Social Security generates $1.83 in economic output.

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Bethel Board of Ed chair resigns with health issues

Bethel Board of Education chairman Larry Craybas is stepping down as he battles leukemia.  The Republican resigned last week after more than a decade volunteering his time on the board.  The selectmen will fill the vacancy.  Vice chair Melanie O’Brien will serve as acting chair until new officers are appointed. As chairman, Craybas oversaw the approval of the 65-point-8 million dollar renovations to Rockwell and Johnson schools and helped it get through the proper approvals.  He is being treated at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

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Saw Mill Rd in New Fairfield to close for bridge replacement

An upcoming bridge replacement project in New Fairfield will close a main throughway.  Saw Mill Road will be closed to through traffic for several months starting around April 1st. The road is being closed so the Saw Mill Road bridge can be replaced by a new structure. The closure is expected to continue through mid-November.  The exact dates have not yet been announced.

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Shed damaged by macroburst on Brookfield-owned open space to be torn down

Brookfield plans to demolish a shed on the town-owned Eriksen Farm that was damaged in the May macroburst.  The roof of the shed lifted off and one of the exterior walls buckled. 

Conservation Commission Director Alice Dew says insurance will cover the $4,000 cost of demolition and filling in soil where the shed stood.  If the town had decided to repair the structure, it would have cost $19,000, which insurance also would covered. 

But Dew told the Board of Selectmen that it's an attractive nuisance with kids crawling onto the ground-level roof.  

The Eriksen family sold the 20-acre property to Brookfield in 2009, but when it was a working farm, cows used the shed for shade.  The shed is attached to a barn, which would not be affected by the demolition.

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Aplastic Anemia Awareness Week marked in New Milford

An official proclamation has been issued in New Milford declaring this past week as Aplastic Anemia Awareness Week in New Milford.  Mayor Pete Bass thanked Julia's Wings for their efforts in providing awareness and financial help for those in need.  The non-profit was was created to honor Julia Malsin, who suddenly became ill at the age of 12 with the rare bone marrow failure disease. She passed away a year later, in 2012.

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Wilton Police remind residents of drug drop box in lobby

The Wilton Police Department is reminding residents that they are a participant in the Medication Drop-Box Program.  A box is located in the main lobby of the Wilton Police Department, which is accessible 24/7, to dispose of unused medications. This confidential, free service ensures safe disposal of unused medication, protecting the environment and youth.

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Redding Library officials tout range of products available

Redding officials are reminding residents that their Mark Twain Library Card reserves more than just books.  Passes to Connecticut cultural institutions, area attractions and museums are available through the Tixkeeper reservation system, some free of charge with others offered at a reduced pricing.

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Bethel state Senator to host community conversation event this weekend

State Senator Julie Kushner will host a “Community Conversation” in Bethel on Sunday from 1 to 3pm.  It will take place at Stony Hill Fire House.  This is part of her ongoing series of meetings with the public.  The Bethel Democratic Town Committee encouraged all Bethel residents to attend. 

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Himes votes 'present' on amendment lowering voting age to 16

4th District Congressman Jim Himes voted "present" yesterday on an amendment to lower the voting age to 16. In explaining his vote, Himes said he only learned about the proposal 30 minutes before the vote, and it seems like a big change.  He believes there was no research on it, and noted that he didn't have a chance to ask constituents if this is something they want.  It was the first time he didn't vote yes or no, but rather as present since being elected in November 2008.

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As recycling costs soar elsewhere, Redding officials tout lock-ed in low rates

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities is calling on the General Assembly to put a prohibition on any new state recycling mandates until long-term solutions are found for rising costs.  Redding officials say the town is one of the few to not be impacted at this time.  As a member of a regional recycling authority, they locked into a ten year contract at $10 per ton just before the crash.  Municipalities throughout Connecticut are getting hit with massive increases in the cost of hauling recyclables, including Weston and Wilton.  Those municipalities have seen price increases from $9 per ton upwards of $70.

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Danbury City Council Democratic caucus names new Minority Leader

The Danbury City Council Democratic Caucus met this week to address a leadership vacancy created when long time Minority Leader Tom Saadi resigned to concentrate on State and Federal obligations. The caucus elevated Deputy Minority Leader Paul Rotello to   Minority Leader.  The group also re-endorsed Legislative Leader Fred Visconti's ongoing position.

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Youth Volunteer Corps in Danbury named 'Gold Level'

For the fourth year in a row, the Youth Volunteer Corps in Danbury was named a Gold Level program, one of only 14 throughout the U.S. and Canada awarded this honor.  The youth service program, hosted by United Way of Western Connecticut, had 140 participants ages 11 to 18 in 2018.  The youth work with more than 30 agencies.  They focus on projects related to compassionate communities, healthy lifestyles, arts, culture, and education.  The Gold Level rating goes to those that serve as stand-out examples for how the program can serve its community.

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Danbury crews out tackling pothole problems

The annual thaw and refreeze of pavement has created a minefield for drivers trying to get through pothole riddled streets.  Danbury Public Works Director Antonio Iadarola says the asphalt plants are currently closed, but his department is putting together a list of roads that need attention and which roads have drainage issues that need to be fixed first. 

He says 3 to 6 crews are out patching potholes.  Residents are advised to call 311 to report potholes, which goes into computer system that the foreman checks to schedule repairs every morning for those crews. 

Danbury officials are looking to purchase a hotbox which makes warmer asphalt and works better.  Iadarola says they will tackle problems with traditional material, the hotbox and the so-called pothole killer.  The truck has a mounted spray injection patcher, uses a hydraulic boom to clear debris, and then applies liquid asphalt to fill and seal it. 

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Connecticut lawmakers considering $15 minimum hourly wage

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut lawmakers are considering whether to increase the state's $10.10 an hour minimum wage to $15 per hour.

The Labor Committee heard testimony Thursday on legislation increasing the minimum hourly wage to $15 by 2023 or by 2024, which Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont has proposed. Each proposal seeks future increases based on national indexes.

Lawmakers last voted to increase the state's minimum wage to $10.10 an hour five years ago. The wage was gradually increased to $10.10 by 2017.

Democratic Sen. Julie Kushner of Danbury says at the time it was the highest in the nation, but now Connecticut lags behind its neighboring states.

Business owners are balking at the idea. George Frantzis, co-owner of Quassy Amusement and Waterpark in Middlebury says each 25-cent increase costs him $26,000.

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New Fire Marshal takes oath of office in Danbury

A new fire marshal has been sworn in in Danbury.  Terence Timan took the oath of office yesterday.  He replaces  recently retired Fire Marshal Jim Russell.  Timan has been with the Danbury Fire Department since 2004 and has received numerous awards for his service to the City.  He specializes in Community Outreach and is an active volunteer in the community. Timan is the Fairfield County Representative of the “Connecticut Fire Prevention Program” and the American Red Cross Connecticut “Home Fire Preparedness Campaign” along with a member of the “Danbury helps City of Danbury, Texas Hurricane Relief” efforts. The Fire Marshal’s Office is responsible for investigating fires, fire and building code enforcement, along with public fire safety education.

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Brookfield marina awarded DEEP grant for Candlewood Lake pumpout station

A Brookfield marina is being awarded a $1 million grant to help protect the quality of water in Candlewood Lake.  The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection awarded Echo Bay Marina and 42 others a grant for a stationary and mobile sewage disposal facility.  The marine facilities provide 25% of the cost of each project. This marks the fourth consecutive year that more than 1 million gallons of boat sewage was removed from recreational boats in Long Island Sound and major tributaries, along with Candlewood Lake.  DEEP Commissioner Katie Dykes says the recreational boating industry supports more than 7,300 jobs in Connecticut, with an annual economic impact of more than $1.3 billion.  Dykes says in order to support this vital industry the waters must be kept clean and healthy.

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Pembroke School continues to fundraise for ADA-accessible playground equipment

Pembroke School is continuing its fundraising efforts to build the district’s first accessible playground for students.  Advocates to date have raised nearly $29,000 toward the goal of $150,000. They plan to replace an existing playground with limited features for students with disabilities. The new design will feature ADA-approved equipment, such as wide bridges and equipment that is lower to the ground.   Other schools in the district, as well as members of the community, are working together to support the construction of the Pembroke Playground. The athletic department at Danbury High School allowed Pembroke to collect donations at home football games, while King Street Intermediate raised $100 from bottle deposits. Elementary schools, Stadley Rough and Park Avenue, have also donated: The Kindness and Compassion Club at Stadley Rough donated $300, while Park Avenue established a penny collection, “Pennies for Pembroke.”

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Bethel Board of Finance sends budget proposal to public hearing

The Bethel Board of Finance is sending a budget plan to a public hearing for further consideration.  The $78.5 million represents a 5.2 percent increase over the current year.  Officials say the budget proposal, if approved as is, would raise the tax rate about 2.5 percent.  The plan is broken down into $46.5 million for the schools, $26.4 million on the municipal side, and the balance for debt service and maintenance.  Officials say most of the hike is to pay off some of the police station and school renovation projects.  Rising enrollment and new state requirements also led to an increase in the school request.  The public hearing is March 19th.  The Board of Finance will review the budget and then send it to a town meeting on April 1st.

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One hospitalized after two-alarm blaze in Danbury

There was a two alarm blaze in a Danbury house this morning.  Firefighters responded to Clairann Drive around 9am and found smoke coming from the roof and garage of the two-story home.  One occupant was evaluated and transported to the hospital for treatment of smoke inhalation.  A family of five, two of whom were home at the time, has been displaced.  The Red Cross is assisting the family.  The area is non-hydranted so New Fairfield firefighters provided mutual aid.   The cause is under investigation. 

(Photo: DFD)

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Police investigating two incidents of bogus bills used in Southbury stores

Southbury Police are investigating two incidents in town where counterfeit bills were passed at TJ Maxx and HomeGoods. Police are asking for the public's help in identifying the a man and woman caught on store surveillance footage. All calls will be kept confidential.

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Bethel tops in state in Cyber Patriot code-breaking competition

Bethel High School Navy JROTC placed 1st in the state in the Cyber Patriot code-breaking competition.  The mission of the competition is to inspire high school students to careers in cybersecurity or other science, technology, engineering, and mathematics disciplines.  Each team competes in a series of rounds online by fixing vulnerabilities, hardening systems, and performing other tasks. All divisions compete on the same weekends, but the high school and middle school competitions have different structures. Teams may compete in any six consecutive-hour period within the specified Competition Windows.

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Newtown residents to vote on funding for pickleball courts next month

An anonymous donor has offered Newtown $25,000 to build four pickleball courts.  The tennis-like paddle game is played on a badminton court with a perforated ball,  Newtown already has a court at Treadwell Park and Edmond Town Hall, but there was a proposal in the Capital Improvement Plan to add more to the Fairfield Hills campus in the coming years.  Residents will get to vote on a request for $290,000 on the budget ballot next month.  The April 23rd vote will also feature questions on replacing school boilers and road repair funding.

 

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State Police Troopers schedule 'Coffee with a Cop' event in Southbury

Connecticut State Police Troop A is hosting a Coffee with a Cop event on March 21st.  The community building events are aimed at bringing together police officers and residents they serve in order to discuss issues and learn more about each other. State Police Troopers will be at the Southbury Starbucks on Main Street South starting at 10am.

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Danbury Schools to host mental health forum tonight

The first in a series of forums on adolescent mental health organized by the Danbury School District will be held tonight.  The forums are in response to the suicide of a high schooler last month and an attempt to erase the stigma around mental health.  Superintendent Sal Pascarella says this is part of the best practices they've found in responding to the death of 16-year-old Hailey Nailor at Danbury Mall on February 9th, and the social media posts that followed.  Mental health professionals will help parents address the recent trauma with their children, connect them with service providers and answer parents' specific questions.  The 6pm forum at Danbury High School's new black box theater will also include information from suicide prevention experts.  Additional forums will be organized for students and the general community.

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Danbury City Council confirms new member

A new Danbury City Councilman has been sworn in.  

Democrat Farley Santos now represents the 4th ward.  He replaces Tom Saadi, who resigned last month to focus on his job as State Veteran Affairs Commissioner.  Santos speaks English, Spanish and Portuguese and teaches Sunday school at the Immaculate Heart of Mary parish.  The son of immigrants serves as an assistant vice president and branch manager for the Savings Bank of Danbury.  

His confirmation to the City Council creates a vacancy on the Danbury Board of Education.  The school board will begin accepting applications soon for Santos’ seat.  Any resident over 18 years old, regardless of political party, will be eligible to apply. 

Democrat Kate Conetta and Republicans Ralph Pietrafesa and Emanuela Palmares all have been appointed since the November 2017 election, replacing elected members who resigned for health and work reasons.

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Former Danbury employee files federal discrimination suit against City

A federal discrimination lawsuit has been filed against the City of Danbury by a former employee. 

58-year-old Marlene Moore-Callands, who is black, claims her supervisors treated her differently due to her race.  She retired after 30 years in the tax collection and permit center.  She claims in the suit that unlike other employees she was denied overtime work and was not compensated for working during lunch. 

The Connecticut Law Tribune reports that Moore-Callands also alleges that after a heated discussion with a contractor over NFL players kneeling during the anthem, where the contractor told her to go back to Africa, that a manager told her was was too sensitive.  The complaint alleges that a manager also approved of displays of the Confederate flag.  She claims the city knew about the alleged behavior, but officials took no action. 

The city denies wrongdoing.  The lawsuit seeks attorney fees and unspecified compensatory and punitive damages.

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Danbury students meet with business leaders to learn business plan creation, marketing

Danbury High School freshmen in the Danbury Early College Opportunity’s had an opportunity recently to meet with business leaders from the community who serve as program mentors. Students in the program earn an Associate Degree simultaneously with their high school diploma.  A dozen mentors met with the 52 students, in small groups, to discuss how to present ideas and products for marketing experience. The mentors helped students organize a presentation, some of which included a business plan.  Students begin accelerating their high school requirements so that by sophomore or junior year they can begin incorporating college-level courses, some of which take place at Naugatuck Valley Community College's Danbury campus. DHS is the second high school in Connecticut to offer such a program.

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More than 90 cars towed in Danbury for parking violations during snow storm

Dozens of people didn't heed calls to not park on the street over the weekend when about 10 inches of snow fell on the region.  Danbury city ordinances call for people to move their cars off the streets within two hours after snow storms start.  More than 90 cars were towed during Sunday's storm.

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Brookfield firefighters remind drivers of 'Move Over' laws after close call

Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company was on the scene of a minor car accident on Route 7 last night and say 3 vehicles didn't move over, despite it being safe to do so.  The Connecticut Move Over Law requires a motorist approaching one or more stationary emergency vehicles located on the travel lane or shoulder of a highway to slow down and, if safe, move over one lane.  Brookfield fire officials say while to some it may seem unnecessary, safety is a top priorities. Two of the vehicles were traveling at or above the posted speed limit and were close enough to the Rescue to cause it to sway back and forth.

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New Milford Police investigating shoplifting incident

The New Milford Police Department is investigating a shoplifting incident at Kohl's. They are seeking the public's help in identifying a male and female caught on surveillance video who may have information about the matter. A white SUV, also captured on security footage, is believed to be their vehicle.     

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Danbury 'No Tolls' rally scheduled for this weekend

Members of No Tolls Connecticut are holding two protests this week about impending Toll Legislation. The Danbury No Tolls Protest rally, previously postponed, will be this Saturday at the corner of Wildman and White Streets from 1 to 2pm.  A hearing at the state capital on 3 proposals is currently underway.  Participants in Saturday's rally are encouraged to bring signs.  The grassroots organization also has started a petition, which to date has over 50,000 signatures.  

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Danbury UNIT places lien on blighted property City hopes to buy, take by eminent domain

An update has been given to the Danbury City Council about a blighted property the City is looking to buy or take by eminent domain.  The Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team says 89 Wooster Heights is the worst case of blight Danbury has seen in years. 

The property is filled with piles of construction debris, metal, and unregistered vehicles.  UNIT has been assessing fines of $100 per day.  Since cleanup hasn't been done, UNIT has placed a lien on the property, in the amount of $19,400. 

UNIT does not anticipate cleanup in the immediate future, and is exploring other avenues of compliance. The property near Danbury Airport is also the subject of enforcement actions by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. 

The property is within the flight path of the airport and funds from the FAA may be available to purchase and improve the site. 

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Brookfield residents approve funding for new school project

Brookfield residents have approved building a new Huckleberry Hill Elementary School.  The $78-million  project was passed by an unofficial vote of 1,846 to 1,033.  A new school would be constructed on the back field the current campus, with Center School Pre-k through first graders also moving into the facility.  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, possibly a community center.  Construction could begin in 2020 and take almost two years.

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Cities, towns passing resolutions opposing highway tolls

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut cities and towns have begun registering official disapproval of Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont’s proposal for highway tolls.

At least four communities have so far passed resolutions opposing electronic tolling.

“I think it’s an expression of our concern,” said Sherman First Selectman Don Lowe, a Democrat, referring to the Feb. 28, 2019, vote of 2-1 by his town’s Board of Selectman in favor of the non-binding resolution. He said small communities like his, which is about 10 miles from Interstate 84, will be inundated with drivers hoping to avoid tolls.

“One of our concerns is traffic. I think a lot of people are going to be taking local roads,” said Lowe, adding how he personally considers tolls a tax on the poor and the middle class.

Besides Sherman, local officials from Stamford, Enfield and Trumbull have adopted anti-toll resolutions in hopes of influencing the debate at the state Capitol. A resolution approved by the Trumbull Town Council on Monday night raises concerns that tolls “may become a regressive tax for residents and businesses of Connecticut,” how Trumbull residents who travel frequently could be adversely impacted and how Trumbull roads could become congested with motorists attempting to avoid gantries. The resolution encourages the town’s leaders to “continue to advocate this position on our behalf” with the General Assembly.

Rep. Laura Devlin, R-Fairfield, on Tuesday noted the recent “activities” by communities concerned about tolls.

“They have passed resolutions that say no tolls,” she said. “And regardless of having an R or a D behind their name, they have stood up and have been united. And that’s one thing in Hartford that we have not seen and that is a problem.”

Republicans, the minority party in the legislature, have seized on the tolling issue this session. They held a news conference on Tuesday to urge the public to speak out against tolling. The Transportation Committee is holding a public hearing on Wednesday on two tolling bills — including one offered by Lamont — that could ultimately create an electronic tolling system on Interstates 84, 91, 95 and Route 15.

Sen. Henri Martin, R-Bristol, urged residents to either attend the hearing or submit written testimony.

“In short, the only way to stop tolls from moving forward is for the public to get engaged and for them to speak their minds,” he said.

Lamont has argued that tolling would generate a new revenue stream that’s needed to financially shore up Connecticut’s main transportation fund. He originally called for only tolling trucks during the campaign, but his budget proposed two options: tolling only trucks or tolling all vehicles. Lamont has made it clear he’s leaning toward tolling all vehicles, a move the administration estimates could eventually generate $800 million annually. The Republicans, on the other hand, have proposed a plan they say prioritizes state bonding for transportation projects doesn’t require tolls.

Maribel La Luz, Lamont’s director of communications, said the GOP plan would mean more debt to be “paid by our kids and grandkids” while the governor’s proposed “user fee” on major highways would ensure at least 40 percent would be paid by out-of-state drivers, a figure the GOP disputes.

“Every other state around us has figured this out,” La Luz said. “So can Connecticut.”

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Records ban proposed after release of gunman's writings

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut prosecutors have launched an effort to ban the public release of documents such as the writings of the Sandy Hook School gunman, in response to a state Supreme Court ruling that ordered the disclosure of the shooter’s belongings and ended a five-year legal battle.

Under the court’s order, state police in December released to The Hartford Courant hundreds of pages of documents that shed light on the gunman's anger and obsession with mass murder. 

Chief State’s Attorney Kevin Kane’s office has proposed a bill that would exempt from state freedom of information laws property seized by search warrants without an arrest being made, except if the property is filed or introduced as evidence in court. The legislature’s Judiciary Committee is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the proposal Wednesday.

“There is a lot of personal private property seized by search warrant that belongs to private individuals containing private information,” Kane told The Associated Press. “To make it public information ... really is an intrusion on people’s privacy. It goes far beyond what the constitution contemplated.”

Mental health experts, researchers and public records advocates argued the release of the writings was very much in the public interest, because the documents offered insights into the mind of a mass killer and possibly could be used to prevent future mass shootings.

Democratic Bridgeport state Rep. Steven Stafstrom, co-chairman of the Judiciary Committee, said Tuesday that he was reserving judgment on the bill until after the public hearing, but said it presents important public policy issues.

“You’re balancing the public rights to information and open government with the state’s ability to conduct an investigation into a crime,” he said. “And you’re also potentially balancing a victim’s right to protect information from public disclosure.”

State police fought the Courant’s request for the documents that were seized from the shooter's home after the shooting. The state Freedom of Information Commission ordered the release of the documents, but a state judge overruled the commission.

The newspaper appealed to the state Supreme Court, which in October ordered state police to release the belongings. Justices unanimously ruled there was nothing in the state’s search and seizure laws that makes such documents confidential.

His belongings included a book describing violence against children, a spreadsheet listing mass killings dating back to 1786 and writings expressing his scorn for other people.

Connecticut’s child advocate said his severe and deteriorating mental health problems, his preoccupation with violence and access to his mother’s weapons “proved a recipe for mass murder.”

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Air quality monitoring station at Kent School now operating

An air quality monitoring station at Kent School is now operating.  Western Connecticut Clean Air Action is reporting that additional monitoring devices will be installed in Kent, Washington, Cornwall, and Sherman. The advocacy group formed in opposition to a soon to be opened natural gas-fired power plant in Dover Plains, New York.   The device measures for three major air pollutants associated with natural gas combustion.  The group is looking to form a regional air quality monitoring network.  Cricket Valley Energy Center is set to be operational in 2020.  A public meeting is being organized for this Spring.

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Rogers Park tennis courts getting updated

Tennis Courts at Rogers Park are getting a facelift.  City Councilman Duane Perkins questioned the overhaul after talking with workers, who told him they were implementing a system using wire tension for the cement.  Public Works Director Antonio Iadarola says it's a technology that's been embraced by people who maintain tennis courts, which require a lot of upkeep because of cracking. 

The infrastructure is put into the concrete and then pulled as it hardens, which locks it in place. Iadarola says it prevents cracking because there's constant tension in the slab.  The slabs are supposed to last 50 years or longer.  He says the key is not drilling in the slab, because if it's cut, the tendon will come flying out. 

The nets are pre-formed and installed before the concrete is put in.  Crews have already ground everything up and readied the site for the installation of underground wires.  The Public Works Department will also replace the lights at Rogers Park.

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Southbury police investigate graffiti incidents around town

The Southbury Police Department is investigating a Criminal Mischief complaint that occurred at the intersection of Fish Rock Road and Lake Ridge Road.  The vandalism included pavement, signs and guardrails being spray painted.  Anyone with information is asked to call Southbury Police at (203)264-5912. All calls will be kept confidential.

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Dozens turn out to blood drive in honor of Bethel PD Detective's daughter

Dozens of pints of blood were donated during a drive yesterday at the Bethel Police station, which was held in honor of Maddie O'Farrell, the 12 year old daughter of a Detective who has been diagnosed with Ewing Sarcoma, a rare bone cancer.  48 people registered, but 4 were not able to donate for various eligibility reasons.  The Red Cross will separate platelets, plasma and red cells from every whole blood donation so 132 patients will be helped by the 44 donors.  Detective Frank O'Farrell has been with the Department for more than a decade and served in the Army Reserves for 25 years.  

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UPDATED: SUV crashed into Newtown restaurant Monday

An SUV crashed into a Newtown restaurant yesterday afternoon.  The accident happened around 2:30pm at King’s Breakfast & Lunch on South Main Street. 

The vehicle came through the wall of the wood-frame building.  Botsford Fire Rescue and the Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps responded to the scene.  Emergency repairs were made to a door, window and section of the wall.   Newtown's fire marshal, building inspector and food inspector are investigating.

Newtown Police say a southbound vehicle, operated by 79-year old Theodore Shear of Bridgewater, tried to turn left into the driveway in front of the SUV.  The other driver, 59-year old Douglas Gabel of Monroe, turned abruptly to avoid hitting the Acura, continued through the parking lot and entered the exterior wall with its front bumper. 

The bumper struck a person sitting in a chair with her back to the wall.  No injures were reported. 

Shear was cited for failure to grant the right of way at a driveway.

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School building project referendum today in Brookfield

The New School Project referendum in Brookfield takes place until 8pm.   Voters will be asked to decide on whether to appropriate $78.14 million for a new Huckleberry Hill Elementary School.  It would be constructed on the back field the current campus, with Center School Pre-k through first graders also moving into the new facility.  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, possibly a community center.  Construction could begin in 2020 and take almost two years.  More information on the project can be found on the town and school website, plus a 6-minute video that outlines the project vision and rationales.

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Bridge rehabilitation work on Route 133 in Brookfield, Bridgewater gets started

The state Department of Transportation is starting a bridge rehabilitation project on Route 133 between Brookfield and Bridgewater, over the Housatonic. 

The existing bridge deck will be replaced, drainage and paving work will then be done.  Steel repairs and painting will wrap up the work.  The project is expected to be completed near the end of October. 

During construction, traffic will be limited to one-way alternating traffic, controlled by local police details and certified flag persons.  Temporary traffic signals will be used after April 1st, between 9am and 3pm. There are five scheduled bridge closure periods between May and October, on yet to be determined select weekends.  Brookfield and Bridgewater town officials will be notified at least two weeks in advance. The weekend of the Bridgewater Fair will not be a scheduled closure weekend. 

The $9.86 million project was awarded to Mohawk Northeast.

The DOT is putting up portable message boards along Route 133 in Brookfield and Bridgewater.  The signs will inform motorists of hazards and important activity dates, or detailing the detour route, through New Milford.

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New Milford lawmaker wants military ID to be alternative for driver's license for building entry

Currently, a driver’s license is the standard form of proving one’s identification, but not all veterans have a driver’s license.  New Milford State Representative Bill Buckbee spoke in favor of a new proposal that would allow veterans or active military to use their military   ID cards to enter public buildings that require a form of personal identification.  He says a friend, who is a veteran, was denied access to a building when he produced his military identification to prove who he was.  Buckbee says to deny any member of the active military or veteran access to a building after they have shown who they are is wrong.

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Grant funding awarded to New Opportunities for senior programs

Grant funding from the Corporation for National and Community Services has been allocated to support the Senior Corps RSVP program.  It's one of the nation’s largest volunteer programs for people ages 55 and older to use the skills they’ve learned in life to help provide critical services within their community. 

There are 180 volunteer members with New Opportunities in the Greater Danbury, New Milford and Waterbury areas.  The organization has been granted more than $125,000 from Connecticut's share of nearly $400,000. 

The grant awarded to Connecticut will include helping volunteers provide mentorships to low-income individuals and veterans, services to communities dealing with food insecurity, tutoring and Meals on Wheels delivery to improve the academic outcome of students, and services to ensure seniors’ safety and support their independence so they can remain in their homes.

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Connecticut lawmakers considering expanding seatbelt law

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Connecticut's Department of Public Health is recommending state lawmakers require everyone riding in a vehicle to wear a seatbelt.

It marks the second year the state agency has proposed such a measure. Connecticut is currently one of about 20 states that do not require all rear-seat occupants to wear a seatbelt.

Republican Rep. Mitch Bolinsky of Newtown, testifying Monday before the General Assembly's Public Health Committee, says people sitting in the backseat can become "human missiles" in a crash.

The National Transportation Safety Board says 169 vehicle occupants died in motor vehicle crashes in Connecticut in 2016. NTSB says half of those occupants were not using seat belts. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says Connecticut would save an additional 18 lives annually if everyone is required to be restrained.

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New Fairfield firefighters off snow removal safety reminders

New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department is reminding people cleaning up snow today to start the snow blower outside, never in the garage.  They recommend that precaution in case of fire, explosion or carbon monoxide poisoning. 

The Fire Department is reminding people not to put a hand in a jammed snow blower to clear the blockage.  Even after it has been turned off, the snow blower retains stored energy and parts could start moving automatically once the jam has cleared.  Depending on the object, use a shovel or rake handle to clear the blockage.  

During the clearing process, fire officials recommend wearing bright or reflective clothing and be aware of traffic, especially near the end of driveways.  

A gas-powered snow blower should be allow it to cool before refueling. Gasoline can ignite if spilled on hot engine parts. Never try to refuel a snow blower while it is running. 

If you have an electric-powered snow thrower, the Department suggests choosing your path wisely to keep the cord safe, working away from the cord.  Fire officials say extension cords intended for outside use and equipped with a grounding prong should be used to help protect against shock hazards.

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New Milford again petitions Siting Council about Candlewood Mountain proposal

The town of New Milford has filed a petition with the Connecticut Siting Council urging them to deny the development and management plan for the Candlewood Mountain Solar project.  If the plan is approved, construction can then begin.  Ameresco plans to generate about 20 megawatts of power to feed into the New England power grid via the Rocky River substation.  New Milford is also asking that the Siting Council extend its 60 day deadline so a hearing or other proceedings can be scheduled.  Mayor Pete Bass also challenged the stormwater management plan with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

 

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Newtown Police Chief seeks to crack down on juvenile car thieves

Newtown and area towns have seen an unprecedented amount of stolen cars, including one just this past week from Newtown that led both Danbury and State Police in a dangerous chase.  Chief James Viadero says these crimes are being almost exclusively committed by juveniles who face little or no punishment if and when they are caught.  He is working with area departments to ask for a change in criminal justice reform laws.

A measure is being considered by Connecticut lawmakers about youthful offenders.  The bill calls for establishing a community-based preprosecution program or a diversion program that provides services and resources to rehabilitate and redirect youthful offenders.

Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano says there's been a rash of car thefts throughout the state.  Youthful offender car theft arrests was about 300 in 2016.  Once 2018 figures are finalized, the number will be about 800. 

Fasano says California has a law about car thefts, with enhanced penalties if it's an emergency vehicle or has a handicap sticker.  He says diversionary programs are different than what is currently on the books.  He noted that only a handful of states have so-called pop-out laws for car thefts, treating it differently than other similar crimes.

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Bethel officials reminding residents of winter damage mailbox replacement policy

Bethel officials are reminding residents about the town's mailbox replacement policy.  If a mailbox or post is damaged as the result of snow removal operations, the  responsibility for making repairs is on the property owner.  The Bethel  Department of Public Works will not be responsible for mailbox damage from snow being thrown from removal equipment.  When a mailbox or post is damaged by direct contact from snow removal equipment, there will be an inspection to determine who is at fault--whether it's improper installation, or plow operator error.  If it's operator error, the mailbox or post will be repaired or replaced. Bethel officials say it's very uncommon that a mailbox is directly contacted with snow removal equipment, with the average at less than one percent.  Non-contact knockdowns average more than 100 or more per snow storm.

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Danbury man questioned by police about home burglary, admits to purse snatching

A Danbury man has been arrested for allegedly threatening a resident with a kitchen knife last fall.  Danbury Police say the suspect in the September 4th overnight residential burglary in the Liberty Street area was later identified as 23-year old Eddinson Sanchez.  He allegedly climbed  into a second story bedroom window and stole items from a sleeping resident. The resident woke up and confronted Sanchez. While talking with Sanchez, police say he admitted to stealing an elderly woman's purse near St. Peter’s Church on October 22nd by pushing her down, causing significant injuries.  When arrest warrants were issued, Sanchez was already incarcerated.  He also admitted to several additional crimes, which are currently being investigated.

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Computer repair company tips police to child porn images

A New York man has been arrested after State Police received a tip of possible child pornography from a computer repair service.  An investigation by the Computer Crimes Unit, after obtaining a search warrant from the court, led to the discovery of multiple illegal images.  They were on a computer allegedly owned by 52-year old Mark Treulieb.  He was charged with 3 counts of Possession of a Sexual Performance by a Child, all class E felonies.  Treulieb was arraigned and released for a March 26th court appearance.

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Opposition springs up over school consolidation proposals

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — It took only a few weeks for opposition to develop against legislation encouraging Connecticut schools to consolidate.

By Friday, it had grown into hundreds of teachers, parents and students from mostly small towns, many wearing stickers that read “Hands Off Our Schools,” packing a public hearing at the Legislative Office Building to fight what they consider forced consolidation and regionalization.

“People see their local schools as the heart and soul of their towns and they simply don’t feel people outside their community should be dictating how they should educate their children,” said Republican Rep. Gail Lavielle of Wilton. She said her email inbox is “exploding” with opposition to three bills, including one proposed by the state’s new governor, Democrat Ned Lamont.

Lavielle held up a stack of petitions signed by more than 8,300 residents. She noted how a Facebook group already has more than 4,500 members and how more than 3,500 pages of testimony were submitted to the General Assembly’s Education Committee for Friday’s hearing.

“Wouldn’t you give your child every resource you could to help them succeed,” asked Wilton High School junior Danielle Favarolo, one of numerous students who came to testify from Wilton, a wealthy community of about 18,500. She spoke about how her father travels five hours each day so she can go to school there and how she fears her district could be forced to consolidate.

Proponents of the legislation have tried to quell the outcry. At least one lawmaker said he hoped his bill would prompt debate about a contentious subject that has been discussed in other New England states with diminishing student enrollment and a need to cut costs.

“I want to be very clear. We’re not closing or consolidating schools, busing children long distances and we’re not removing local control,” said Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff of Norwalk, whose bill would require any district with a student population of fewer than 2,000 to join a new or expanded regional school district with more than 2,000 students. Those districts that refuse would have to explain their reasoning to the state Department of Education.

He said lawmakers are trying to improve students’ access to programming like art and music, but also save money through making the state’s education system more efficient.

Senate President Martin Looney, D-New Haven, who proposed legislation encouraging more regional school districts, said the purpose of his bill was to “begin a discussion” about how Connecticut has too many single-town school districts that are losing students.

“That is our challenge and our problem,” he said, adding how a voluntary plan would be preferable to forced regionalization.

Lamont last week met with municipal leaders in Fairfield County and tried to assure them he supports incentives that encourage more regionalization and consolidation. His bill would create a commission that would develop plans toward that end.

“On sensitive, localized issues like our schools, it’s important to lead with the carrot and not force peoples’ hands,” he said, noting how his bill does not force any of these partnerships. “This is an issue that has strong feelings on all sides, but we have to remember that at the end of the day, it’s about ensuring that our kids get the best education and that we don’t burden our cities and towns by subsidizing inefficiencies.”

In Connecticut, there are 169 towns, 206 school districts and 1,493 public schools.

Vermont instituted a consolidation plan that’s currently being challenged in court. A tri-partisan group of Vermont lawmakers is seeking to postpone the mandatory school mergers deadline from July 1 to July 2020. Another bill would put a pause on involuntary mergers until the courts rule on legal challenges filed by school districts.

In Maine, results have been mixed following a 2007 move to force schools to consolidate. There’s been a more recent push for voluntary consolidation.

And in South Carolina, lawmakers this year are considering offering incentives to school districts to ease consolidation.

While opposition to consolidation bills in Connecticut may be strong, Sen. Doug McCrory, D-Hartford, warned the issue isn’t going to go away, especially considering the level of racial segregation in the state’s school districts.

“I understand that people move into communities because the education is outstanding. Great. Great. But there’s a reason why and we haven’t dealt with it,” he said. “It depends on where you live and your zip code. That determines your outcomes, unfortunately.”

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Connecticut towns to be recognized for high voter turnout

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - Four Connecticut communities will be honored for their impressive Election Day voter turnouts.

Secretary of the State Denise Merrill will present the 2018 Democracy Cup in four categories, based on town size, in a series of public events this month.

The winner in the small town category is Washington; the winner in the mid-size town category is Granby; the winner of the large town category is Guilford; and the winner of the city category is West Hartford.

Merrill, a Democrat, says "record-breaking voter registration was followed by record-breaking voter turnout" in Connecticut's November election.

Statewide voter turnout was 65.19 percent. The town of Washington had the highest overall voter turnout of 87.66 percent.

 

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NY lawmaker calls for end to unfunded mandates

The New York State Legislature recently returned for the 2019 session.  Putnam County assemblyman William Gouldman is calling for Unfunded Mandate Reform as an Early Voting bill being considered won't place the full fiscal impact on the state.  Additional costs associated with the Early Voting are staffing, securing voting locations, printing, counting ballots and securing elections are safe from threats with an estimated cost to Putnam County of approximately $300,000.  The county’s operational budget for 2019 has already been enacted. 

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New Fairfield firefighters offer reminders about Carbon Monoxide

The New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department is cautioning people about carbon monoxide.  Even low levels can make a person sick, and high levels can kill.  The invisible, odorless gas can escape from any fuel-burning appliance, such as a gas furnaces, water heaters and stoves, or an automobile idling in a closed or attached garage.  Common Symptoms of CO Poisoning include headache, dizziness, fatigue, nausea and flu-like symptoms.  New Fairfield fire officials urge people to install carbon monoxide detectors.  If the alarm goes off, everyone should be moved to a source of fresh air outdoors. 

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Newtown legislator introduces public safety initiatives

Newtown state Representative J.P. Sredzinski has proposed a bill aimed at promoting mental health/wellness training and suicide prevention for police officers.  A Dispatch Center Supervisor by trade, Sredzinski says it's important that emergency responders are well-equipped to handle situations that require immediate mental health care.

A bill has also been introduced requiring local or regional boards of education to allow private therapists, under a written doctor's order, to provide medically necessary therapy or other care to students during regular school hours. 

Sredzinski says this is the case for some children on the Autism spectrum.  He says having trained behavior therapists with students who require it, being paid for by private funds, is a win/win.

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Say Something Week wraps up in schools across the country

Today wraps up the annual Sandy Hook Promise initiative known as Say Something Week.  The no-cost, easy-to-implement program trains middle and high school students to look for warning signs of gun violence and to get help from a trusted adult.  Thousands of schools across the country participated in the week. The curriculum and materials teach students in 50 minutes or less how to identify warning signs to help prevent tragedies.

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Brookfield Rep. makes proposals in response to May macroburst

Brookfield State Representative Stephen Harding is backing a bill aimed at helping homeowners recover from the macroburst that hit last May.  It would establish a fund to provide financial assistance for property damage caused by a natural disaster, as declared by the National Weather Service, not otherwise covered under an insurance policy.  Another proposal would place certain requirements on insurers related to coverage of residential properties for the removal of trees that have fallen due to a natural disaster.

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NY lawmaker speaks out against proposed budget cuts

Putnam County Legislator William Gouldman says New York Governor Andrew Cuomo's proposed budget will cut Aid and Incentives to Municipalities by $60-million, as of April 1st.  Towns and villages have already passed their local budgets based on AIM funding remaining flat since 2011.   Gouldman says AIM helps local governments with property taxes, provides vital local services such as law enforcement and public safety and helps to maintain local infrastructure such as roads and bridges.  Funding loss within Putnam County includes a more than $11,000 cut to Brewster, $45,000 from Southeast and $140,000 from Carmel.

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Danbury Library to host computer session to help amateur genealogists

For those researching their family trees and wanting to make more use of computer technology in their searches, Danbury Library will host a presentation by the Connecticut Ancestry Society, "Computers and Technology: Problems, Pitfalls, and Lots of Promise".  The interactive session on Saturday, from 10:30am to noon will begin with several slides and demonstrations and continue with audience participation. The program is free and no registration is required. 

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Bethel Superintendent to testify on school regionaliztion proposals

The legislature's Education Committee will hear public testimony today concerning four school regionalization bills. 

One would align districts to the probate court districts.  Another requires towns with less than 40,000 residents to combine.  Only 24 of 169 municipalities in Connecticut have a population over the threshold.  A third 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 last proposal is part of the Governor's budget plan, which would create a new state commission charged with developing a plan for redistricting or consolidating services and districts. His plan doesn't force any partnerships, but rather encourages and incentivizes municipalities to collaborate.

Bethel Superintendent of Schools Dr Christine Carver says if funding is being taken away, the plan in essence does force regionalization.  She says they need to keep kids at the forefront, and she's not sure this process accomplishes that goal.  Carver is also concerned with the structure and timeline of the Governor's committee.  She added that Western Connecticut superintendents have been meeting for nearly two years about how to consolidate services, and implemented a number of things that have saved money.  She says the mandates could undermine the good things they're already doing.

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.

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.

Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker met with Governor Ned Lamont at the state capitol yesterday.  He told Lamont that Bethel and others will fight school regionaliztion bills. 

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House passes bill to lengthen gun sale background checks

WASHINGTON (AP) - Capping two days of action on gun control, the House has passed legislation to allow a review period of up to 10 days for background checks on firearms purchases.

Democrats led approval Thursday, 228-198, with a handful of defections and scant Republican support. The bill stems from the 2015 shooting at Emanuel AME Church in South Carolina, where nine black worshippers died in 2015 at the hands of a white supremacist. A faulty background check allowed the gunman's firearm purchase after the required three-day review period expired.

On Wednesday, the House passed bipartisan legislation requiring federal background checks for all gun sales and transfers.

The bills are expected to languish in the Republican-controlled Senate. The White House has threatened a veto.

5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes addressed the House floor for the first time, and focused on gun violence.  She said nearly 40,000 people die of gun-related injuries per year.  While mass shootings often dominate the headlines, Hayes said they can't continue to turn a blind eye to gun violence happening on a daily basis in cities all over the country, even her hometown of Waterbury. 

Hayes says as a teacher and a mother she's seen firsthand how the fear of violence affects children.  She says Congress has failed communities for too long by staying silent on the issue.  She believes Americans are ready for common sense legislation.

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Court case continued over alleged PTO embezzlement

The court case has been continued against a former Brookfield PTO treasurer accused of embezzling money.  39-year old Monica Bevilacqua was in court yesterday over allegations she stole $12,700 from Center Elementary School PTO's accounts over two years. 

Authorities believe she wrote herself 11 checks and made more than 180 personal charges on the PTO's credit card.  Bevilacqua reportedly signed another person's name on three of the checks. The credit card was used on Amazon, DoorDash food delivery and at other merchants.

The PTO does not receive any public funding from the town or its schools. 

She is facing charges of larceny, illegal use of a credit card and three counts of forgery.  The case was continued to March 27th.

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Residents weigh in on proposed changes to Shoreline Management Plan

About two dozen residents attended a public hearing hosted by First Light Power Resources over proposed changes to their Shoreline Management Plan for lakes Candlewood, Zoar and Lillinonah.  The review was required by First Light's license from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  Among the proposed changes that were questioned are administrative fees when residents apply for shoreline uses within the project boundary and about installations of vegetated buffer gardens, among others.  Candlewood Lake Authority executive director Mark Howarth asked that the existing plan be resubmitted to FERC instead of the revised draft.  Comments on the plan can be submitted to First Light until March 20th and since it's a draft document, changes can be made by FirstLight until their final due date to FERC on March 27th. 

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