Local Headlines Archives for 2019-04

Nighttime construction planned on I-84 in Danbury

Nighttime Bridge Maintenance will take place on I-84 Eastbound and Westbound in Danbury beginning tonight.  The project involves bridge deck and asphaltic plug joint repairs between Exits 1 and 8. The work is scheduled through Friday, May 17th. This work is being performed by DOT Maintenance. The regular work schedule for this project is 9:00 p.m. to 5:00 a.m., Monday through Thursday nights, ending at 5:00 a.m., Friday.  There will be various lane closures in place.

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Local lawmaker teams up with Bethel business to raise money for DAWS

Bethel State Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan is teaming up with a local business to raise money for Danbury Animal Welfare Society.  He will be a guest bartender at Broken Symmetry tomorrow as part of their monthly "brewback" series to benefit charities in the area.  10-percent of proceeds from sales 6pm to 8pm will be donated to DAWS.  Allie-Brennan says DAWS has been part of his efforts to get a bill passed banning puppy mills.  The measure prohibits the sale or transfer of dogs, cats and rabbits at Connecticut pet shops that are not from animal welfare organizations.  The bill awaits House action.

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Danbury students perform in Little Kids Rock program

In celebration of their year-long participation in the Little Kids Rock program, some Danbury students performed with guest musician Pete Francis of "Dispatch."  The Broadview Middle School Advanced Modern Band also heard from Francis about the value of music education. 

The after-school program combines students in the school’s band, chorus, orchestra and modern-band classes.  

Last year the entire music staff was trained by the nonprofit Little Kids Rock organization and more than $80,000 in modern band instruments was granted to Danbury Public Schools.  Since 2017, the nonprofit has trained and equipped six Danbury schools music teachers with guitars, keyboards, drums and technology, and recently provided the additional instruments.

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Mailbox outside Newtown Post Office broken into, mail stolen

A mailbox was broken into and mail reportedly stolen.  Newtown Police say the incident happened sometime between 2:30 PM on Sunday and 6:30AM yesterday at the Express mailbox located on the outside of the Newtown Post Office on Commerce Road. 

Residents who used the collection box should contact the intended recipients and cancel any checks mailed from that location.  Anyone with any information is asked to contact the US Postal Inspection Service at 1-877-876-2455. 

Mailboxes are considered federal property, and vandalism is considered a federal offense. Violators can be fined up to $250,000, or imprisoned for up to three years.

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Firefighters extinguish two-alarm blaze in Brookfield home

There was a two-alarm fire in a Brookfield home yesterday morning.  Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company responded to a report of a structure fire on New Bridge Road shortly after 9am.  Crews stretched lines to the basement and encountered heavy fire and smoke conditions.

Units ventilated the roof of the single family home and performed extensive overhaul throughout the structure.  Firefighters were on scene for about two hours.

There were no injuries reported.  The fire is being investigated by the Brookfield Fire Marshals office. 

Both Brookfield fire companies were assisted by the.Water Witch Hose  of New Milford, Northville Volunteer, Newtown Hook & Ladder, Stony Hill, Roxbury Ambulance Association and the Brookfield Police Department.  Hawleyville and the Bridgewater firefighters provided station coverage during the incident

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Former prison guard sentenced for sexual abuse of inmate at Danbury FCI

A former prison guard has been sentenced to 10 months in prison for sexually abusing an inmate.  33-year old Carlos Sanchez must then serve 5 years of supervised release.  According to court documents, the former Middlebury man was employed as a correctional officer at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury.  On two occasions last summer, Sanchez engaged in sexual activity with a female inmate at the prison.  He pleaded guilty and was released on bond.   Sanchez must report to prison on May 21st.  He was born in Ecuador and became a U.S. citizen in 2009 after serving in the Marines for more than four years. He started working for the Bureau of Prisons in 2014.

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Former state Rep. William Varese found dead outside home

STRATFORD, Conn. (AP) - Stratford police say a former Connecticut lawmaker has been found dead outside his home.

The body of former State Rep. William Varese was discovered Sunday.

Police say they don't suspect foul play in the death of the 71-year old Republican, but did not elaborate. The Office of the Chief State Medical Examiner has not released a cause of death.

Varese, who had a law practice in Trumbull, was elected to the General Assembly in 1990 from Monroe and served four two-year terms.

He made headlines in 1998 when a Department of Motor Vehicles hearing officer allowed him to keep his driver's license after he was arrested on a drunken driving charge following an accident in which his car struck five parked vehicles.

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Danbury Hospital doctor participates in forum on Gun Safety and Public Health

Danbury Hospital Emergency Room Dr. William Begg attended a forum held recently in Hartford on Gun Safety and Public Health.  The Newtown resident was the lead physician in the ER the day of the shooting at Sandy Hook School.  As EMS/Medical Director, he was collaborating with EMS on scene to decide who would be transported to the hospital and who wouldn't.  Begg and his team tried unsuccessfully to save two children, and were able to save one educator. 

Over the last 7 years he has spoken out on the issue, including before the U.S Senate Judiciary Committee. 

Begg says there is an assumption that health care providers can convey safety information, but there is no adequate screening tool.  He notes there have even been proposed gag orders on health care providers, which are meant to intimidate.  Begg wants Connecticut lawmakers to propose an act protecting health care providers who chose to educate their patients as part of a wellness or prevention program on public health-related topics such as texting and driving, seat belts and gun safety. 

Begg says he wants to work with the younger generation to advance the issue.  He says medical school students, and even high schoolers, are going to be the ones to be the change.  He noted that there are over 40,000 deaths each year from gun violence, many of them suicides.

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Bethel firefighters rescue cat from tree

A cat stuck in a tree was rescued in Bethel Friday.  Bethel Fire & EMS received a call at the station to rescue a resident's cat that got itself into a precarious situation. Although this is an abnormal call for Bethel firefighters, officials say they were excited to be able to help someone’s pet.

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Air quality monitoring bill advances out of Senate

The state Senate has unanimously approved a bill to bolster air monitoring in Litchfield County.  The measure, backed by Danbury Senator Julie Kushner and Kent Representative Maria Horn, was introduced in response to the Cricket Valley Energy Center.  The facility is set to open next year in nearby Dover New York.  The Connecticut will requires the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to offer air monitoring assistance to towns that purchase, lease or is provided the use of air monitoring equipment to establish an air quality baseline.  The state previously declined to expand its air monitoring network, but local municipalities have taken action.  The bill now goes to the House.

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Household Hazardous Waste Day planned

Housatonic Resources Recovery Authority will be hosting a Household Hazardous Waste Disposal event in a few weeks.  The event May 18th at the Newtown Public Works facility is open to residents of Newtown, as well as Bethel, Brookfield, Danbury, New Fairfield and Ridgefield.  There is no charge to participate.

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Wilton Police issue reminder about vendor permits

As the warmer weather arrives, Wilton Police say there's usually an increase in solicitors, vendors, and food trucks in town.  Wilton Town Ordinances require that each person offering goods for sale must have a valid permit issued by the Police Department.  Applications, with applicable fees and documents must be submitted at least ten business days before the need for such permit. Permits are valid for one calendar year from date of issue. Permits must be worn at all times during sales and holders must obey all regulations of the permit to include the hours of day permitted to sell.

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Danbury, Newtown Police seek IDs on persons of interest in crimes

Two local police department are looking for the public's help in identifying suspects.  Danbury Police are looking to identify two people wanted for questioning about the use of stolen credit cards.  A woman reported charges on her card at Target in Bethel and believes she lost her wallet last Friday in Danbury.  The two people were seen driving a white GMC Terrain. 

  

Newtown Police are looking to identify a man as part of an identity theft investigation.  He is believed to be driving a newer white Jeep Grand Cherokee.  The man was seen on surveillance video wearing an Adidas hat, and an Express green jacket with "UNITES" across the back of it.

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Pedestrian found at fault after being struck by car in Danbury

A pedestrian was struck and injured by a car in Danbury over the weekend.  Emergency Responders were called to Mill Plain Road around 8:30pm Saturday near the Trader Joe's shopping plaza.  The pedestrian was conscious, but had a head injury and was treated at the scene.  The pedestrian was found at fault and given a verbal warning by police for reckless use of the highway by a pedestrian.

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Danbury, New Milford firefighters quickly extinguish fires in homes

There were two fires over the weekend, both quickly extinguished.  Danbury firefighters responded to a home on Quien Street off Pleasant Street near Park Ave Saturday night.  A resident reported an attic fire around 9:30pm.  Flames and smoke were seen coming out of a window when firefighters arrived. 

A propane cylinder was involved in the fire, venting from the pressure relief valve. Crews brought the propane cylinder outside to a safe location where is could be better secured.  Fire officials reminded residents that propane tanks should never be used or stored in living areas. They should only be used in an area outdoors and well ventilated.  Propane cylinders should be safely stored in an outside secure location such as a tool shed.

No injuries were reported and the fire marshal is now investigating. 

In New Milford, firefighters responded to an Old Town Park Road home Friday night.  A fire was reported in the garage and quickly extinguished.

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Proposal advances to address youthful repeat offenders

A proposal about public safety and the welfare of repeat juvenile offenders and their victims has passed out of a Connecticut legislative committee.  It requires the automatic transfer to criminal court of a case of a juvenile charged with larceny involving theft of a motor vehicle.  Bethel Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan says this is for a juvenile with at least four prior adjudications or convictions for a felony.  Allie-Brennan says he supports the concept, but would like more details. 

The proposal would also change the factors a court must consider when determining whether to transfer a case involving a juvenile charged with certain felonies.

The pop-out crime proposal is modeled after a law in California, with enhanced penalties if it's an emergency vehicle or has a handicap sticker.  Teen car theft arrests were just 300 back in 2016, but jumped to about 800 last year according to state officials. 

Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano's proposal would establish a community-based diversion program that provides services and resources to rehabilitate and redirect youthful offenders.

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Burial request in a designated ancient graveyard in Redding discussed

A request for a burial in a designated ancient graveyard in Redding will be discussed by the Redding Board of Selectmen at a future meeting.  Redding Historic Cemetery Commission Chairman Robert Paradise recently presented the information to the Board about the request at Hill Cemetery.  The Commission is to advice, maintain and restore the cemetery, not to make policy.  First Selectwoman Julia Pemberton says the policy in question needs review by Town Counsel.  Paradise noted that there are more sites than stones, in addition to three stones that have only birth dates without death dates.  An ancient graveyard is a burial ground that's been in existence for 100 years or more.  An abandoned cemetery is one that's had no burial for 40 years

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Lawmakers try to amend early voting bill for special election in contested district

There is still a contested state House seat in Stratford because 76 voters were given the wrong ballots in November, ones which were meant for a different House District.  While debate was underway Wednesday on an early voting bill, Republicans offered an amendment paving the way for a special election. 

House leaders claimed the amendment was not appropriate for the underlying legislation. 

Southbury Representative Arthur O’Neill countered that the issue was was related to voting.  O'Neill said the resolution being voted on was about ensuring voters are enfranchise, are given that opportunity to vote. 

The Democrat won the House seat by 13 votes.  The state House speaker believes the standard wasn’t met to take the unprecedented step of ordering a new election, but they are considering a targeted recanvass in the one precinct in question.  He added that a new election would invalidate the thousands of votes properly cast throughout the district. 

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Local police departments holding drug take back collections

The Ridgefield Police Department, in partnership with the Ridgefield Prevention Council, is holding a prescription drug take-back initiative to promote the proper disposal of medications. Police say prescription drugs that languish in medicine cabinets create a public health and safety concern because they are highly susceptible to diversion, misuse and abuse. 

From 10am until 2pm,  unused and unwanted prescription and over-the-counter medications will be collected at Bissell Pharmacy on Governor Street.  The free, drive up service is completely anonymous.

All medications that are collected are brought to an incineration facility for destruction by Ridgefield Police Officers.  There is a prescription drug take-back box located in the front lobby of Police Headquarters available 24 hours a day/365 days of the year.

The Northwest Corner Prevention Network in partnership with the Kent Resident State Trooper will host Prescription Drug Take-Back today from 10am to 2pm at Kent Town Hall.  Prevention Network representatives will hand out free lock-bags designed to safeguard prescription medications in homes, as well as literature and other promotional materials.  

The event, held nationally twice yearly, provides families and community members with a free, safe and confidential way to dispose of unused and unwanted prescription drugs and medications.

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Ridgefield High School student named to State Board of Ed

A Ridgefield High School senior has been confirmed to the State Board of Education.  Tarini Krishna was named a student member by the Department of Education in September.  Governor Ned Lamont sent the nomination to the General Assembly this week.  She is a non-voting member for a term ending June 30th.

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Bethel Police to hold car seat clinic

The Bethel Police Department is hosting a Car Seat Clinic tomorrow.  Bethel Police Certified Child Passenger Safety Technicians will work with parents and caregivers to ensure that their car seat is installed and used properly in their car.  The Clinic will be held, by appointment only, at the Stony Hill Fire Department. For further information or an appointment time contact the Officers at 203-744-7900 Ext. 693 or visit our website, Bethel-ct.gov/police, and select the Services tab to book an appointment online.

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Brewster Fire Department to host open house

The Brewster Fire Department is hosting an Open House during Recruit NY Weekend.  People interested in becoming a firefighter or EMS volunteer were urged to attend the event Sunday starting at 9am.  Those in attendance will be able to tour the firehouse, see fire apparatus and ambulances, and firematic demonstrations among other activities.  The Brewster Fire Department was formed in 1870.  Last year, the Department responded to 2556 fire and ambulance calls making it the busiest Fire Department in Putnam County.  Outside of New York City an estimated 95% of all firefighters in New York are volunteers. Brewster officials say emergency volunteers save property tax payers an estimate $3 billion a year in paid services. Benefits for emergency volunteers include a state income tax credit, a real property tax exemption and a length of service award program.

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Car show to benefit Danbury War Memorial

A fundraiser to make improvements to the Danbury War Memorial is being held Sunday.  Activities at Rogers Park have been canceled that day so the inaugural War Memorial Car, Truck & Motorcycle Show can take place.  The event starts at 10am with a color guard ceremony, judging at noon and trophies awarded at 3pm.  Every kind of vehicle will be accepted into the show, which has 27 judging categories.  Participating vehicles will enter from Coalpit Hill Road and Lions Way and must pay a 20-dollar fee which will go toward renovations inside the nonprofit recreational and educational facility.  Spectator parking will be along Main Street and Patriot Garage.  Shuttle buses will run from City Hall to Rogers Park between 11am and 5pm.  The rain date is May 5.

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Kent man pleads guilty to bank fraud, identity theft

A Kent man has pleaded guilty to bank fraud, social security number fraud, and aggravated identity theft.  The Maine U.S. Attorney says 54-year old Mark Pignatello traveled across Maine and New Hampshire visiting bank branches with counterfeit checks made out to others. He allegedly used the social security numbers and other personal information of these individuals to impersonate them.  Authorities say he had a fake ID with his photo, but other's personal information.  Pignatello faces up to 30 years in prison and a fine of up to $1 million on the bank fraud charge alone.  He will be sentenced after a presentence investigation report by the U.S. Probation Office.

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Redding, Ridgefield to mark Earth Day with litter collections this weekend

Redding's annual Earth Day/Rid Litter Day will take place Saturday on the Town Green.  It's rain or shine.  Residents are called on to help build Mt Trashmore by picking up roadside trash that has accumulated over the winter months.

This is Redding's way of celebrating the nationally recognized Earth Day and to act "locally".  The trash collected on the green is then brought back to the Transfer Station and weighed.  The collection is from 9am to 3pm.

Ridgefield’s Rid Litter Days are Saturday and Sunday. Volunteers will be picking up litter in neighborhoods throughout the town.  Refuse bags and safety vests can be picked up at Parks & Recreation on Danbury Road, at Town Hall, and at the Chamber of Commerce office on Grove Street.

Drop off points for filled refuse bags are Farmingville Elementary School, East Ridge Middle School, Ridgefield High School, Branchville Elementary School, and the Parks and Rec Auxiliary Parking Lot.

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Water service interruptions reported at FCI Danbury

There was a water interruption at the Danbury Federal Correctional Institution this week.  For several hours on Wednesday there was no running water in a section of the prison.  It stemmed from work on the steam lines and water service was restored with the next afternoon.  FCI brought in bottled water and there was access to working toilets.

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Brookfield woman to present suicide information to middle school students, parents

A Brookfield woman who lost her daughter to suicide is planning two presentations to students and their parents.  Debbie Berman's presentation is called “SHE MATTERED” and tells her 14-year old daughter’s story to raise awareness about issues including depression, bullying and suicide risky behavior.  One presentation is Monday at 6:30pm for Whisconier Middle School 7th and 8th graders and their parents.  The next one will be May 13th.

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1 person killed in Connecticut barn collapse

A Danbury man has been killed in a barn collapse.  State police say troopers responded to the town of Bethany just before 9am yesterday for reports of a collapse.  38-year old Joister Pacheco-Attaide was pronounced dead on the scene.  His body was recovered from inside the remnants of the barn and taken to the medical examiner's office.  Police say the barn dates to the early 20th century but was undergoing renovations and two construction workers were at the scene.  The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration has sent an inspector to the site.  The barn is located on a 2.2-acre parcel listed for sale.

 

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Cost to go up for lobbyist to General Assembly hired by Danbury

The cost for a lobbyist hired by the City of Danbury and the Danbury School District to try to get more state funding has gone up.  The price for the service increased by $2,500.  The original contract, split evenly, was $50,000.  The contract now goes through the Board of Awards, like other contractual items.

When the idea was first floated during the 2016 legislative session, opponents on the City Council said the bipartisan elected delegation represents the city well enough and weren't convinced that lobbyist is the right approach to trying to get more state funding back for the City. 

The lobbying service is meant to give Danbury greater access to funding in the form of municipal aid, as well as to grant opportunities through state department funding.  As state revenue continues to decline, City officials say it's imperative that Danbury be well represented at the Capital.  Danbury has the 5th lowest per student spending in the state, with City taxpayers footing 70-cents on every dollar. 

City and school officials say Connecticut is underfunding education in Danbury by some $30 million.

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Danbury Police Benevolent Association sending out direct mail fundraising request

The Danbury Police Benevolent Association is changing their fundraising efforts.  The organization, created in 1947, supports former police officers and their surviving spouses.  Sgt Ethan Mable says retired members live on  a limited income and rely on the Danbury P.B.A. for additional support.  The P.B.A. is not a union nor a political lobby.  Some supporters have expressed concerns about telemarketing fundraisers so the organization is switching to direct mail.  Letters, printed in both English and Spanish, are being mailed out today and should start arriving early next week.  All of the mail is created and mailed from the City with a return envelope and address.  Anyone with questions can call the Danbury P.B.A. office at (203) 798-3638. 

 

 

 

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Town Meeting in Sherman tonight on proposed budget

The tax rate in Sherman would be cut under a proposed budget up for a vote next month.  Officials are proposing a $14.6 million budget, 1.14 percent less than the current year.  The tax rate would drop 2.5 percent, if approved.  The proposal includes $9.38 million for the schools and $5.19 million on the municipal side.  Sherman residents will get to weigh in on May 4th during a vote at Mallory Town Hall.  Part of the reason for the reduction is that there is more Grand List revenue, more money from a T-Mobile tower lease, less debt and some health insurance savings.  A budget presentation is planned tonight at 7pm.

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Danbury Colonials, Hat Tricks to play hockey at Danbury Ice Arena

The Danbury Colonials will be part of the North American 3 Hockey League.  The team will relocate to Danbury and play their home games at the Danbury Ice Arena beginning this season.  The League, entering its 10th season, is a USA Hockey-sanctioned Tier 3 Junior League.  Ice Arena officials say the league serves as one of the top training grounds in the country. 

The Danbury Colonials ownership group is under the umbrella which owns and operates the arena.  This is separate from the Federal Hockey League team announcement coming next week.  That team is expected to be called the Danbury Hat Tricks. 

The new owners of the Ice Arena plan to add 4 new team locker rooms, a weight room, a dry-land hockey training room, a figure skating training room and a terrace bar overlooking both sheets of ice.

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Team 26 kicks off annual ride from Newtown today

Team 26 is kicking off their annual ride, but changing their destination.  The group of bicyclists in past years have ridden in honor of those lost at Sandy Hook School and ended in Washington DC to lobby lawmakers for gun reform. 

This year, Team 26 is riding to Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh. 

Monte Frank is the founder and leader of Team 26 and was the Lt Governor candidate running with Oz Griebel in November.  Riders will be leaving from Trinity Episcopal Church in Newtown today.  A brief service will be held at 8am. 

Team 26 cyclists are focusing on how faith communities are a significant resource for conversation and transformation, especially as sources of hope and peace.  They plan stops along the 600 mile ride in Ridgefield, Gettysburg and at the Flight 93 National Memorial among other locations. 

They are due to arrive in Pittsburg on May 2nd. 

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New Fairfield Board of Ed gets details on renovation, building costs

The New Fairfield Board of Education has gotten some details about the difference in renovating two schools, or constructing new ones. 

Building a new high school and an early learning academy to replace Consolidated School would cost up to $112 million.  That does not include state grant reimbursement.  At the high school, the cost to do roof replacement and ADA compliance work could then only be a few thousand dollars less than completely new construction bolstered by state funding. 

The Board of Ed says the current schools need new roofs, are not energy efficient and noted that there's declining enrollment. 

Tours of Consolidated School and the high school will be held Tuesday at 6:30pm, with a public forum Thursday at 7pm.  The Board of Ed will then meet on May 7th to further discuss the options.  The deadline to apply for state funding this year is June 30th.

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Tots in Connecticut dig into recycling to honor the planet

MONROE, Conn. (AP) — Ellie Maynard was excited about flowers.

The 4-year-old, a student at The Goddard School in Monroe, was helping to organize seeds Tuesday morning, along with classmate Brynn Walter, 5, and teacher Bridget Douglas. The seeds would be planted in the fingers of plastic gloves — one of many environmentally-focused projects the school’s students are doing this month.

But Ellie wasn’t thinking about the larger implications of the project as she picked through seeds.

“We’re making flowers,” she announced.

Douglas reminded her that they were also planting tomatoes, squash, carrots and other foods. As teacher and students worked, Douglas talked to them about bees, and the role they play in helping plants grow. “Bees like honey,” Ellie chimed. “Honey is delicious.”

That slight non sequitur aside, projects like the glove garden help teach Goddard students — who range in age from 6 weeks to 6 years — the importance of reusing items instead of throwing them away, said Goddard School assistant director Heather White.

“All the classrooms are using recyclable materials in as many activities as they possibly can,” she said.

The emphasis on being a good steward of the environment has been going on throughout the month of April, in honor of Earth Day, which was Monday, and Arbor Day, which is Friday. Other projects have included a playhouse made of large cardboard boxes in one of the toddler rooms, a banner decorated with recyclable materials and wind chimes made from recyclable materials.

But students aren’t just playing around with would-be trash — they’re learning why it’s important to re-use stuff instead of tossing it, teachers said.

“We try to use recyclable materials all year round,” said teacher Samantha Theoret. “We’re constantly trying to make kids aware of ways to reduce, reuse and recycle. They’re really into it.”

Her fellow teacher, Holly Tutoli, agreed.

“I think they understand what they need to do as far as recycling,” she said. “They like to talk about the animals in the ocean” and how they are affected by plastic and other trash that gets into their environments.

Indeed, the message wasn’t lost on 4-year-old Juliette Catron, who worked on a banner Tuesday morning. Recycling is important, she said, “so we don’t get the Earth all sick.”

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Bethel Representative votes for bill to help veterans

The state House has passed a bill requiring emergency medical services personnel to receive training in health conditions common to veterans.  Bethel Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan says this legislation is one way to ensure the well being of former members of the armed forces.  He says the state must continue to support the heroes who have served this country.

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Area legislator backs HIV prevention, pre-existing condition bills

A piece of legislation aimed at increasing access to preventative interventions for minors who are at risk of exposure to HIV has passed the state House.  The bill was introduced by Bethel Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan. 

Despite the decline in overall HIV cases, he says the rate of HIV infections increased in Connecticut last year.  Allie-Brennan says the bill will allow young people to access potentially lifesaving preventative care without putting themselves at risk of parental rejection or abuse. PrEP also increases routine testing for HIV and sexually transmitted infections as a prescription requirement, prioritizing an individual’s well-being. 

He is also touting House passage of a bill expanding required health insurance coverage for pre-existing conditions.  Allie-Brennan says the conditions would be covered, regardless of whether medical advice, diagnosis, care or treatment was recommended or received before insurance started.  

It repeals redundant exceptions that limit mandatory coverage for breast cancer survivors.  It also requires short-term insurance policies to include the same pre-existing conditions provision as other individual and group health insurance policies.

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Local lawmaker introduces bills to help people with Autism and their families

Autism Awareness Day at the Capitol was held last week, with the focus on the journey into adulthood.  Newtown Representative JP Sredzinski, who is the stepfather of a child with Autism, says he is advocating for policies that make this transition more empowering for ASD individuals and less challenging for their families. Priority areas include early intervention, employment, family supports, housing, and education. 

Sredzinski cosponsored a bill enhancing Department of Developmental Services transitional services for Medicaid coverage despite family earnings.  The bill passed unanimously in the House and sent to the Senate for a vote. 

Sredzinski is also touting unanimous House passage of a bill aimed at improving communication between persons with Autism and law enforcement officers.  The DMV, upon request by a person with ASD, would be given a blue envelope for their drivers license, registration and insurance card.  The measure was sent to the Senate for a vote.

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New Milford nonprofits get donations during fundraising day

There was a Give Local campaign yesterday in the Litchfield Hills area and greater Waterbury region.  841 donors gave $15,592 to 32 New Milford nonprofits.  Among the recipients was the New Milford Children's Center, Harrybrooke Park and Hunt Hill Farm among others.  Overall more than $1.3 million was raised for nonprofits in the northwest corner.

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Bethel residents send budget proposal to second referendum

Bethel residents have voted to send the revised municipal budget proposal to a referendum May 7th.  During the second annual town meeting, there was some opposition to the $31.6 million plan.  Several hundred thousand dollars in cuts were made to the proposal earlier this month, but some say the Board of Finance needed to go further.  Taxes would go up by 1.65 percent under the new proposal.  One resident called for a vote to set the referendum while others were still in line to speak.  The school and capital budgets were approved during the first referendum.

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Ability Beyond to host fundraising gala

Bethel-based Ability Beyond, a nonprofit organization serving people with disabilities, is holding their annual fundraiser Saturday night.  The 2019 Enchanted Forest gala will feature both silent and live auctions, dinner and awards in recognition of the organization's volunteers.  All proceeds from the event will be used to continue programs and support for people with disabilities in Connecticut and New York.  Through community job training and placement, supported living, and recreational and educational opportunities, Ability Beyond helps thousands of individuals each year to live full and rewarding lives.  The event Saturday is from 6:30 to 11:30 at the Amber Room in Danbury.  John Loehr and the Ridgefield Sunrise Cottage Founders and Leadership will receive the Robert S. Young Humanitarian award.

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Redding officials get update on Eversource upgrade project

Redding officials have given an update on a utility project, which raised concerns from neighbors last year.  The work is along the transmission line that runs from the Peaceable Street substation to the Archer Lane substation. 

During the latest Board of Selectmen meeting, First Selectwoman Julia Pemberton says Eversource initially planned to keep some of the wood structures, and metal structures would be reinforcements.  It was then changed so that every structure would be steel.  The H poles blend into the scenery, but steel monopoles will be visible above the treeline.

Access ways on Indian Hill though had a substantial amount of work done. 

Pemberton previously said the gravel paths look more like parking lots and are elevated. Eversource said in response that they would put down grass seed. Umpawaug is scenic road, and the view can't be changed from the road. She says the work that was done is detrimental.  

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Danbury native to be honored by UConn

A Danbury native will be honored by UConn.  The new baseball facility in Storrs will be named for UConn graduate Doug Elliot.  The under-construction, 1,500 seat facility, is expected to be opened next Spring.  Elliot Ballpark will be located next to the ice rink just off Jim Calhoun Way.  It will have artificial turf, upgraded drainage, lights, a video scoreboard and suites. The home locker room will include showers, lavatories and a players’ lounge, and an adjacent building will include the coaches’ offices.  Elliot, a 1978 Danbury High graduate, played baseball at UConn from 1979-82. His son also played for the Huskies. He is president of the Hartford Financial Services Group and a longtime contributor to UConn baseball He founded the UConn baseball program’s support group, the Dugout Club, in 1991.

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No Tolls CT hosting protest rally in Ridgefield Saturday

No Tolls Connecticut has planned a protest in Ridgefield this weekend.  The grassroots group was formed to fight impending toll legislation currently under consideration by various committees.  Attendees at the Ridgefield protest were encouraged to bring signs.  The rally Saturday is from 11am to noon at the Corner of Copps Hill Road and Danbury Road.  A petition started by the group is approaching 100,000 signatures.   A final bill has yet to be sent to the House or Senate and the session ends June 5th. 

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Clean City Danbury Day volunteers needed

Clean City Danbury Day is coming up on Saturday, May 4th.  Each year, hundreds of Danbury residents pick up litter throughout neighborhoods, parks and waterways.  Volunteers are needed for the day.  Interested people should contact the Mayor's office to sign up and receive a vest, gloves and trash bags.  There are also 4 drop-off locations to throw out items at no cost.  Anyone planning on bringing unwanted items to the dumpster locations can log onto the City's website for more information.

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Paranormal investigator, Lorraine Warren laid to rest

A funeral was held this morning for famous paranormal investigator, Lorraine Warren.  The Monroe resident died at her home on Thursday at the age of 92.  She was laid to rest at the St. Stephens Church in Trumbull. With her husband Ed Warren, she founded the New England Society for Psychic Research in 1952.  Their decades of ghost-hunting cases inspired films such as “The Conjuring” series and “The Amityville Horror.”  Among the investigations, which went from book to TV movie, was The Demon Murder Case in Brookfield.  The couple investigated more than 10,000 cases in the U.S. and abroad, often writing about their experiences. Their unusual profession has been credited with sparking popular interest in the paranormal.

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Redding League of Women Voters is 'Speak Up' event tonight

The second annual “Speak Up” event hosted by Redding League of Women Voters takes place tonight.  The grassroots event is meant to help people become better informed via direct dialogue between Redding residents and elected officials and town employees.  State Senator Will Haskell and state Representatives Raghib Allie-Brennan and Anne Hughes were also invited.  Town employees invited to be on the panel include the first selectman, social services director, chief of police, superintendent of schools, fire chiefs, among others.  Residents will have an opportunity to ask questions and/or voice their concerns during the event from 7:45 to 9:45 pm in the Redding Community Center.

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Regulators sign off on Eversource charging customers $141 million for storm response recovery

The Connecticut Public Utilities Regulatory Authority has agreed to allow Eversource Energy to charge customers $141 million over six years.  It's so the utility can recover money it spent to repair lines after five storms in 2017 and 2018.  Eversource’s parent company made over $1 billion in profit in 2018.

The final PURA authorization is about $11 million less than what Eversource had initially sought.  The first of the installments, $23.5 million, will be collected in May.  A wind storm. three nor'easters, and tornadoes and macrobursts in the Greater Danbury area resulted in more than 19,000 downed lines, poles and transformers.

The Connecticut Office of Consumer Counsel objected to multiple items in Eversource’s proposal, including what it described as “the vast number of meals.”   Eversource said it was for calorie-packed box lunches for workers spending extended hours in the field.

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Car stolen, vehicles rifled through in Ridgefield

A 2019 black Lexus was stolen from a Ridgefield driveway early yesterday morning.  The Lexus from an Old Stagecoach Road driveway was recovered a short distance away with minor damage and no property missing from inside.  Reports of two other vehicles having been gone through were made in the Chestnut Hill Road and Ridgebury Road area.  No missing property was reported in either incident.  Ridgefield Police are reminding residents to remove keys and make locking vehicles part of the nighttime routine. Anyone with information on these incidents is asked to contact the Ridgefield Police.

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Newtown residents approve budget, reject pickleball court funding

Newtown residents have approved a budget for the coming fiscal year.  Both the municipal and education portions, totalling $120.2 million, passed during yesterday's referendum. 

It represents a 1.56 percent increase in taxes over the current year.  There was low voter turnout. 

Residents also approved $1 million for road paving and funding for boiler replacements at two schools.  The $290,000 question for pickleball courts at the Fairfield Hills campus, which would have been offset by an anonymous $25,000 donation, failed by a wide margin.  Unofficial results are that it was rejected 2,136 to 699.

The school budget was approved 1,527 to 1,351 and the operating budget passed by 1,763 to 1,107.

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Transgender inmate sues corrections over lack of treatment

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - A transgender inmate at Garner Correctional Facility in Newtown has filed a federal lawsuit against the Connecticut prison system for denying her transitional care and for housing her with male inmates.

The Hartford Courant reports that Veronica May Clark says Department of Corrections officials have denied her medical and mental health care since she began her gender transition in prison.

The suit seeks proper care and $500,000 in damages.

Clark says she was told that state policy only allows treatment for inmates who began their gender transition outside of prison.

A 2018 law protecting the rights of transgender inmates is not clear on the policy.

A prisons spokeswoman says the department has procedures to meet the needs of gender-nonconforming individuals.

Clark was convicted of murder for beating a man to death and sentenced to 75 years in 2009.

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Unknown powder substance found in envelops at Danbury business

An unknown powder in envelops found at a Danbury business prompted a brief HAZMAT response yesterday.  A vendor at the Shops at Marcus Dairy on Sugar Hollow Road reported finding 6 envelopes shortly after 11:30am.  The incident was deemed a police matter, though the fire department also responded and said the issue was resolved by around noon.  There were no evacuations.  Officials believe the substance does not appear to have been anything serious.  No further details were available.

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Putnam County Sheriff's Office to host drug take back day

A national Medication Take Back Day is coming up Saturday.  Putnam County Department of Health, Sheriff's Department and Putnam Communities that Care Coalition are co-hosting a collection event at Putnam Hospital Center Wagner Cancer Pavilion in Carmel from 10am to 2pm.  People can dispose of expired, no longer needed prescriptions, over the counter and pet medication. Officials say this will help keep them out of waterways and landfills.  Lancets, syringes and sharps will be accepted.  People should removal personal information and keep medication in original packages if possible.

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Danbury Hospital to open new pediatric unit

Danbury Hospital has relocated and built a new inpatient pediatric unit to better serve the evolving needs of pediatric patients and families.  The under-the-sea-themed unit is meant to enhance clinical services for children as well as comfort and the hospital experience for patients and their families.  The 5,000 square foot unit, which opens May 6th, has 6 inpatient rooms, an exam procedure room, infusion suite, dedicated family space and multipurpose space.  The central nursing station, supply rooms, and security systems were also incorporated into the unit.  The project cost $4 million and was funded through philanthropy.  Western Connecticut Health Network and Connecticut Children’s Medical Center have partnered to create a pediatric care alliance to provide specialized services.  It's been named the Anna-Maria and Stephen Kellen Pediatric Unit.

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Congresswoman renews push to get CDC funding for gun violence prevention

There's a renewed push to overturn a ban on CDC funding for research on gun violence prevention. 5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes is cosponsoring a bill to fund research by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on firearms safety or gun violence prevention.  Putnam County Representative Sean Patrick Maloney also backs the measure.  It's a bipartisan bill, with Republican Peter King of Long Island signing on as a co-sponsor.  An appropriations rider from 1996, authored by Republican Jay Dickey, prohibits funding for such research at the CDC.  The original rider’s author says the intention was to prevent the CDC from lobbying for gun control, not from conducting gun-violence research and now opposes the language.

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Bethel Planners to hold hearing on application for chickens in residential zones

The Bethel Planning and Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on an application to change regulations to allow for chickens to be raised in residential zones.  There would be specific conditions outlined in the text amendment change.  They include the number allowed per square foot, coop requirements, setbacks and sanitation among others.  The hearing scheduled for Tuesday has been postponed to Thursday at 7pm in the municipal center. 

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Newtown budget referendum scheduled for today

Newtown residents are voting on a budget today.  There's $42.1 million on the municipal side, $78.1 for the schools.  There are also advisory questions on the ballot.

Residents will also be voting on four capital items including $1 million for road paving. 

$783,000 is being requested for a boiler and lighting at Hawley School. The current boiler is a steam system that runs inefficiently.   $2.7 million for boilers and lighting at the High School is also being sought.  The current boilers are over 49 years old.  Replacement to high efficiency boilers, along with re-piping part of the facility to forced hot water, will provide energy savings and better environmental controls. This will involve a conversion from oil to natural gas.  Demolition, abatement and tank removal is planned.

There's a question about $290,000 for pickleball courts at Fairfield Hills.  The allocation will be offset by a donation of $25,000.  Four new pickleball courts with lighting infrastructure, for the future addition of lighting, will be fully fenced.  The facility will be located adjacent to the Community Center, Glander fields and the Emergency Operations Center. Site work will be completed by Parks and Recreation.

Parking, which will be 20 lined spaces, currently exists behind Cochran House.  A pavilion and bathrooms also already exist or will be a component of the Community Center project.  The new courts will have a 20 year warrantee against cracking or structural issues and will have a service life of greater than 30 years.

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Stabbing at Brewster bar under investigation

There was a stabbing in Brewster early yesterday morning.  New York State Police are investigating a stabbing that happened at the El Pueblo Bar on Main Street during the morning early hours.  Police did not disclose the extent of the injuries or other details about the victim.  Investigators are attempting to locate a 31-year old for questioning.  Any person with information about Alexander Trigueros is asked to contact Investigator Bohlin of the New York State Police at (845) 677-7300. Reference SJS# 8871650.

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Ventura Law, Women's Center to participate in Denim Day

Ventura Law has announced it will participate in Denim Day tomorrow by encouraging its employees, clients, and the Danbury community at large to wear jeans on that day in support of sexual assault survivors. 

Denim Day was originally triggered by a ruling of the Italian Supreme Court when a rape conviction was overturned because the justices felt that since the victim was wearing tight jeans, she must have helped her rapist remove them, thereby implying consent. The following day, the women in the Italian Parliament came to work wearing jeans in solidarity with the victim.

Since then, wearing jeans on Denim Day has become a symbol of protest against erroneous and destructive attitudes about sexual assault.  The Women's Center of Greater Danbury encouraged people to wear jeans to dispel harmful myths about sexual violence and survivors.

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Danbury Library seeks to expand reach beyond facility walls

Danbury Library officials are applying for a number of grants to improve services and facilities.  Among the funding being sought is a grant for sensory room equipment and from the Connecticut Space Grant Consortium, for a week of STEM programing.  Library Director Katie Pearson also told City officials that she is applying for a Better World Books grant.  If awarded, the money would be used to equip and furnish a bus to expand the reach of the library and the Danbury Museum.  The goal is to expand literacy and to promote history.  Person says the Library serves 30-thousand patrons a month and is at capacity.

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Danbury 5th grader takes part in national cooking challenge regional semi-finals

A Stadley Rough student in Danbury has qualified for a  national cooking challenge regional semi-finals.  5th grader Lukas Espinoza will head to the  “Sodexo Future Chefs Challenge” today after beating out 45 competitors at his school last month.  “Crispy Guac” was the recipe that will take Lukas to the next level.  More than 2,700 other students at the 1,400 Sodexo-served schools nationwide participated in the challenge to prepare Mexican-inspired recipes. This is the 9th year of the competition, which was created to encourage students to be healthier and more involved in food preparation.  40 regional winners will be chosen at the end of April, from which five national finalists will then be chosen. The public will vote to select the winner of the 2019 competition.

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New Fairfield considers building new schools rather than renovating

Instead of renovating two schools in New Fairfield, the town could build new facilities.  During a Board of Education meeting earlier this month, Superintendent Pat Cosentino said the state isn't interested in funding the renovation of older, rundown buildings outside of emergency repairs. The state is, however, receiving applications for new construction reimbursement. 

The Board of Ed is hosting a special meeting on Thursday at 7pm.

Representatives from the architectural firm the district is working with will present design plans and detailed cost estimates for new Consolidated School and High School projects, along with plans and costs of renovations.  A new Consolidated School could be located near Meeting House Hill School and that the High School would be razed, with a new building constructed nearby.

A Facilities Study on renovation stemmed from Office of Civil Rights Complaints, issues of non-compliance with ADA regulations, and problems flagged at the fall college accreditation board visit.

The state grant application deadline is June 30.

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Redding to raise health department fees, implement food truck fee

New fees for the Redding Health Department have been approved.  Redding Health Officer Doug Hartline told the Board of Selectmen at their most recent meeting that fees have not been raised in 10 years and the total average increase is 20-percent. 

The largest increase is in restaurant fees due to the transition from State to FDA food codes. 

A one time fee of $25 would be charged to food trucks.  Hartline noted that there are food trucks during Georgetown Day.  If they know they're going to operate in Redding more than once, there is a seasonal food permit for up to 8 events.  They can operate under one permit for all events.  Temporary food permit fees are waived for qualified civic and faith-based non-profits.  They still need a permit. 

Hartline reviewed the current and proposed fees against those in neighboring towns and found that the most common fees are for septic repairs and restaurants.

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Ridgefield, Redding to host 'Rid Litter' Days to mark Earth Day

Today is Earth Day.  Redding's annual Rid Litter Day will take place Saturday on the Town Green. 

Residents are called on to help build Mt Trashmore by picking up roadside trash that has accumulated over the winter months.  This is Redding's way of celebrating the nationally recognized Earth Day and to act "locally".  The trash collected on the green is then brought back to the Transfer Station and weighed.  The collection is from 9am to 3pm. 

Ridgefield’s Rid Litter Days are Saturday and Sunday. Volunteers will be picking up litter in neighborhoods throughout the town.  Refuse bags and safety vests can be picked up at Parks & Recreation on Danbury Road, at Town Hall, and at the Chamber of Commerce office on Grove Street. Drop off points for filled refuse bags are Farmingville Elementary School, East Ridge Middle School, Ridgefield High School, Branchville Elementary School, and the Parks and Rec Auxiliary Parking Lot.

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Public hearing scheduled on proposal to combine New Fairfield Treasurer and Finance Director positions

The New Fairfield Board of Selectmen has set a public hearing date for the proposal to combine Treasurer and Finance Director positions.  First Selectman Pat Del Monaco noted that currently the Treasurer is an elected position and the Finance Director is an appointed position, but according to the town attorney the Treasurer can be changed to an appointed position via a change in the town ordinance.  The Board discussed potential issues and conflicts of interest with combing positions.  The Public Hearing to get feedback on this issue was set for May 8th at 6:30 pm in the Community Room.

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Annual Town Meeting on budget in New Fairfield Thursday

The Annual Town Meeting in New Fairfield on the budget will be held on Thursday.  The meeting will be at 7pm in the Community Room.  The proposed Mill Rate increase is little more than 1-percent. This budget includes the addition of EMT paramedics, a permanent School Resource Officer position and a public works employee for preventative maintenance.  A Question and Answer sessions for the public on the proposed budget will be held on April 29th at 1pm at the Senior Center and 6pm in New Fairfield Library. There is also a possibility that one more session will be scheduled for Saturday, April 27th with a time and place to be determined.

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Sandy Hook memorial designers scale back design to fit projected budget

The Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission has held a meeting to start talking about the budget for the project.  There was no spending cap put in place before, so that a design wouldn't be chosen by price, but rather by what spoke to the group.  The Commission includes the parents of three children killed on 12-14. 

First Selectman Dan Rosenthal told the group at their latest meeting that he informed designers SWA group that there is a $4 million target for the memorial in the Capital Improvement Plan, which has yet to be voted on by residents.  SWA came up with three designs to fit the scope of that budget.  The original design would have been between $10 million to $12 million.  A commission member suggested that fundraise and reach out to those who offered services and materials, in order to maintain the integrity of the project.

Tricia Pinto, whose son Jack was a Sandy Hook student, noted that none of the options have a bridge and questioned if it was feasible to add back in.  JoAnn Bacon, whose daughter Charlotte was also at the school, feels the three options are no longer what they voted on.   While the main water feature is intact, the intricate walkways are not.  She says they were symbolic and that without the bridge, the design doesn't have the impact it originally did.  Brian Engel, who lost his daughter Olivia, says the options are helpful.  He was concerned about the design budget during the selection process, but acknowledged that not setting a budget was done purposely.  He asked if there was state or federal aid available to help clean the ponds.

There was discussion of removing the pavilion in order to restore the bridge feature.  There was also talk of having different security fencing.

The group's next meeting is May 9th.

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Brookfield police investigating jet ski thefts

The Brookfield Police Department is investigating the theft of two Sea-Doo brand jet skis and a trailer from a home in Brookfield. Both jet skis are black and blue in color and the trailer is a two-place galvanized trailer. At the time of the theft, the jet ski’s were enclosed in a white shrink wrap.  Anyone, with any information, is asked to contact Corporal Christopher Campbell at the Brookfield Police Department.

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Fire at Kimberly Clark plant in New Milford extinguished

Water Witch Hose Company firefighters in New Milford responded to a fire at Kimberly Clark late yesterday afternoon.  It was a reported fire in the paper production machine at the Pickett District Road facility.  Both Headquarters and Lanesville Station responded, along with help from Gaylordsville, Northville, Brookfield and Danbury’s air support truck from Citizen’s Hose.  The flames were knocked down after about 15 minutes, but crews stayed on scene to check for hotspots. 

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Two clerks ticketed for illegal alcohol sales in NY

Two people were arrested Friday when New York State Police conducted plain-clothes checks of 15 retail locations selling alcohol.  Clerks at the North Salem businesses were found not to be in compliance with Alcoholic Beverage Control laws.  43-year old Dipak Panday of Mahopac was charged following a check at Swans Deli on Route 22 and 51-year old Amy Cilmi Parr of North Salem was charged following the check at Hayfield Market.  Panday is due in Court on April 29th.  Parr is due in Court on May 6th. According to the New York State Office of Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services, underage drinking is associated with the three most common causes of death among youth, including homicides, suicides, and accidental deaths like in car crashes. 

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Sign on pedestrian island in Brookfield keeps getting hit

The Brookfield Police Department is working with the state Department of Transportation and the Project Manager for the streetscape project in the Four Corners area to fix a problem.  A sign at the Craft Center turn, on a pedestrian island on Whisconier Road, keeps getting hit.  Greg Dembowski says they met with the man who just bought the Brookfield Market property a few months ago.  The new owner has agreed to a raised bed of planters so people can't cut in and out of the property right at the bridge.  Drivers would have to use Tucks Road.  Designs have already been sent to the DOT.  Dembowski says that's the first of three planned steps to fix the traffic issue at the curve.

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Road work scheduled in Newtown

There is some roadwork in Newtown next week which could cause delays.  During the week of April 22nd, a road construction project will take place on Toddy Hill Road in the area of Curtis Packaging and Route 34.  Pavement will be removed temporarily leaving a gravel surface.

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Danbury Labor Market Area gains jobs in March

Connecticut's unemployment rate went up slightly in March from February.  It's now 3.9 percent.  Three of the six Labor Market Areas saw job increases in March and three saw declines.  The Danbury area gained 600 net new jobs.  The Waterbury and the Norwich-New London areas also picked up jobs.  The Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk area saw a loss of 600 jobs, while there were smaller losses in the New Haven and the Hartford areas.

 

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State Police rescue dog struck by car on I-84 in Danbury

A dog was struck by a vehicle on I-84 in Danbury this morning.  Drivers had stopped after spotting the animal, but one hit the dog.  With the help of some good Samaritans, two State Police Troopers rescued the stray.  It wasn't wearing a collar and Troopers say wasn't badly injured.  The dog was hiding under the car so Troopers put a covering over it to transport the dog to Danbury Animal control for medical attention.

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by CSP Troop A (@csp_troop_a) on

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No arrests to be made for Ridgefield baseball field fire, compensation sent to town

The investigation into who poured gasoline and set the fire at Governor Park in Ridgefield has been closed by police.  In a statement, Captain Shawn Platt said compensation has been made for damages and town officials no longer wish to press criminal charges.  He referred further questions to Ridgefield Town Hall. 

First Selectman Rudy Marconi said during the Board of Selectmen meeting on Wednesday that no taxpayer dollars would be spent to fix the field used by the Ridgefield High School baseball team.  The town's insurance carrier wouldn't cover the $40,000 worth of damage.  Private, anonymous donations from a trustee account overseen by an attorney have been received. 

Three coaches were suspended pending the investigation, but reports are that they are back at work. 

Over 60 yards of contaminated earth and clay was removed and the area was determined to be clear of contaminants.  Fresh clay was brought in, completing restoration work.

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Fairfield Hills Community Survey now online

Every 5 years, a committee of Newtown residents are empaneled to review the Fairfield Hills Master Plan.  Set up by the Board of Selectmen, the group gathers input from town leaders and the Newtown Community, and provide recommendations to the Planning and Zoning Commission for updates to the plan.  The goal is to assure that the property development reflects the current and future needs of the town.  The 2019 Fairfield Hills Community Survey is now available and will be open through May 15th.

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Green Chimneys co-founder passes away at 88

The co-founder of Green Chimneys nonprofit in Brewster has passed away.  Myra Ross died at the age of 88.  The organization she founded with her husband, Samuel Ross, who died last year, specializes in animal-assisted therapy and educational activities for children with special needs.  Myra Ross earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Danbury State College, now Western Connecticut State University.  She served as clinical coordinator and director of admissions at Green Chimneys School and Children's Services. A Celebration of Life will take place on May 22nd at 3:30pm on the main campus of Green Chimneys Children’s Services on Doansburg Road in Brewster.

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Putnam County Sheriff's Office develops new app

The Putnam County Sheriff's Office has developed a new mobile app to give the public greater access to law enforcement. 

Sheriff Robert Langley says it's meant to give residents, businesses and visitors important alerts, notifications and resources.  One feature is a  Submit a Tip section, which lets users to submit anonymous tips about narcotics, underage drinking, human trafficking and other incidents via email and texts or with their contact information. The tip lines also allow users to submit a photo with the tip.

Other features include inmate information, warrants, sex offender information and victim notification.  There are also sections about Child Safety Seat programs, Pistol Permits & Handgun Safety and the Drug Hotline. 

Seized asset funds were used to fund the development of the app. No tax dollars were used.

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Newtown Police Chief weighs in on DOJ reports about mental health services for officers

The Department of Justice has released two reports that focus on the mental health and safety of the nation’s federal, state, local and tribal police officers. The reports were required by the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act of 2017. 

Newtown Police Chief James Viadero says the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association's Wellness Committee has spearheaded the ‘Serve Well – Be Well’ program, which encompasses officer emotional and physical wellness from hire to retire and beyond. 

The program encourages peer support and employee assistance programs, and promotes a culture within departments of recognizing and treating mental health issues.  He notes that donations have enabled departments to implement strategies to assist officers, and that the culture of addressing wellness and mental health concerns of officers in Connecticut with dramatic results. 

U.S. Attorney John H. Durham says he is encouraged by the release of these reports and case studies, and the momentum behind this critically important issue.

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New Fairfield proposed budget includes slight tax increase

The New Fairfield Board of Finance is recommending a budget for the coming fiscal year with a little more than a 1 percent tax increase.  First Selectman Pat Del Monaco says this is the lowest mill rate increase in ten years, with the exception of the 2016/2017 budget when the Treasurer refinanced the Town’s debt. 

At the recommendation of the New Fairfield School Safety and Security Committee, the budget contains funding for an additional permanent School Resource Officer position and an additional Dispatcher to monitor school security equipment.  There will be SROs in all four New Fairfield schools.  These additions account for approximately 31-percent of the total municipal budget increase over last year’s budget.  The Board of Selectmen will be holding public question and answer sessions about the budget in the coming weeks.

Priorities were given to school safety, bridge and drainage repairs and EMT Paramedic services.  A third of the increase in the municipal budget is for an additional contract with Danbury Hospital for EMT and Paramedic services for 24/7 coverage following a decreased in volunteers in recent years. 

4 positions have been eliminated from Public Works and Buildings and Grounds over the past decade but this year's budget restores one position.  Del Monaco says prioritizing preventative maintenance improves safety and decreases the need for costly repairs in the future. This addition accounts for 14% of the municipal budget increase. 

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Redding Board of Finance recommends budget for May 7th referendum

The Redding Board of Finance is recommending a nearly $51 million budget for the coming fiscal year be sent to a referendum. The vote will take place on May 7th.  The capital plan includes $2.5 million for upgrades to the police and fire emergency communications system and $400,000 for the Station Road bridge project. 

The spending plan is about $1.73 million more than the current year due to pension, social security and contractual obligations.  The municipal portion of the plan is about $15 million dollars.  The Redding Board of Ed budget is about $22.1 million.  The main drivers there leading to an increase are special education costs, health insurance and pensions. 

Redding's share of the Region 9 budget is about $13.9 million.  The Region 9 plan is split based on student population from Redding and Easton at Joel Barlow High School.   

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Danbury seeks federal grant funding to improve handicap accessibility along sidewalks

Danbury is applying for a Federal Highway Administration Grant to improve accessibility.  Mayor Mark Boughton says the grant is mainly focused on handicap accessibility.  The City was audited by the federal government, which made several recommendations.  The $1.4 million covers 80-percent of the anticipated costs, with the City needing to foot the remaining 20-percent of the tab. 

The program is aimed at improving mobility of school children, the elderly and people with physical challenges.  The money would go to improving sidewalks along Park Avenue near the elementary school and Golden Hill Road and Beckerly Street for access to the High School.  Improvement of pedestrian facilities for the elderly at Danbury Commons, Kimberly Place, Wooster Manor, Crosby Manor, Danbury Tower, Putnam Tower and Bishop Curtis Home would also be funded. 

The grant would also cover installations to help safe pedestrian mobility to and from the train station.  It's about 1 mile of sidewalks and 70 audible pedestrian push buttons at 13 crossing signals. 

Councilman Duane Perkins asked if Deer Hill Avenue could be included in the grant application because of sidewalks, light and traffic safety issues.  Boughton agreed that there is an issue and a need in that area, but isn't sure if it's an exact fit for the grant requirements.

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Two suspects tried to steal ATM from Newtown gas station

Two people tried to steal an ATM from inside a Newtown gas station yesterday morning, but the alarm activated.  Police arrived to see a suspect jump out a broken window of the Citgo on South Main Street, and get into a waiting car. 

Police say it appears the suspects were scared off when they saw a police cruiser approaching.  

The vehicle made its way on side roads to I-84 eastbound and Newtown Police called on State Troopers to deploy spike strips.  The suspect was able to avoid capture and exited in the Waterbury area. 

The vehicle was reported stolen the night before from New Britain and found abandoned. 

The investigation remains ongoing and open.  Newtown Police spokesman Lt. Aaron Bahamonde says he is confident that the suspects will be caught based on further investigative steps.

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Hikers lost in Tarrywile Park rescued by Danbury firefighters

Two hikers have been rescued from Tarrywile Park in Danbury. 

The Danbury Fire Department was called to the park at the end of a nice day on a report that two hikers were lost in the woods and tired.  They deployed their Polaris Ranger and, with the aid of technology, dispatchers were able to place a pin on their mobile mapping system which firefighter took into the woods with them. 

Fire officials say it was a matter of connecting the dots to locate the lost hikers.  The lost hikers were found in 24 minutes and given a lift to their car back at the Mansion. 

Fire officials remind park goers to carry a well charged cell phone so that if the need arrives to call for help, your phone is ready to assist in the rescue.

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Man with drugs in car speeding past Troopers in Newtown eventually caught

State Police yesterday announced the arrest of a Connecticut man who sped by Troopers who were conducting seatbelt enforcement in Newtown.   Troopers were near the Exit 11 off ramp on Saturday when a Mercedes sped by and failed to stop when signaled to do so. 

Troopers were able to conduct a motor vehicle stop a short distance later and found a large amount of marijuana and drug paraphernalia. 

22-year old Christian Enrique Cedillos of Bridgeport was charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession with intent to sell, possession of drug paraphernalia, traveling unreasonably fast and disobeying the signal of an officer. 

He was released on bond for an appearance in Danbury Superior Court on April 30th.

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Men will have access to baby changing tables under bill

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - It could soon become easier for men to change a baby's diaper in Connecticut.

The state Senate on Wednesday voted 34-2 in favor of a bill that requires newly constructed or substantially renovated public or commercial buildings to have an infant changing table available to men, as well as women. The bill now awaits action in the House of Representatives.

Democratic Sen. Dennis Bradley of Bridgeport says "men also have the responsibility to change the diapers of our children" in today's world.

Ridgefield Democratic Sen. Will Haskell notes the law change is important for same-sex parents. Haskell says his brother and husband too often "have to resort to a floor or counter" to change their daughter's diaper because there isn't a changing table in many men's rooms.

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Sandy Hook lawsuit goes before appeals court

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut appeals court has heard arguments over whether Sandy Hook Elementary School officials were negligent in failing to order a lockdown before a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six educators in 2012.

A lawyer for the parents of two children killed in the massacre told the state Appellate Court on Wednesday that school officials didn't follow protocols and order a lockdown that may have saved lives when they heard the gunman shoot his way through the school's locked entrance.

The parents are appealing a lower court ruling that dismissed their lawsuit against the town and its schools.

The town's lawyer argued officials weren't certain what they heard was gunfire in the chaotic first seconds and ordering a lockdown was discretionary.

It's not clear when the Appellate Court will rule.

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Summer Bike Series coming to Clarke Park in Bethel

Economic Development Chairman Mike Boyle presented the 2019 Summer Bike Series request from Mike Conlan to be held on Tuesday evenings from May 21st through  August 6th.  It would be from 6pm to 8:30pm at Clarke Park.  The Selectmen approved the 2019 Summer Bike Series, subject to final review of Town Counsel.  There is a detailed set of requirements and stipulations for the event. The bike race will be sanctioned by USA Cycling.  Bethel police officers will be hired to be on site for the evenings. There are a couple of businesses open during the evening, but the race will follow so-called yellow line rules, where riders must stay to the right hand side of the road on the course.

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Man arrested after flipping uninvolved victim's car while drag racing on I-684

One person was injured in an accident yesterday afternoon on Route 22 in North Salem when a driver who was drag racing, crashed into her vehicle.  New York State Police say 27-year old Quintin Rodriguez of Rockaway Beach New York was headed northbound on I-648 near exit 7 racing an unidentified vehicle.  He sideswiped a car, causing it to hit the guardrail and land on its roof on Route 22.  The road was closed between Routes 116 and 138 during the emergency response and investigation.   The driver of the overturned vehicle, a 22-year old Danbury woman, sustained minor injuries.  Rodriguez was charged with reckless endangerment and reckless driving.  The investigation remains on-going to identify the vehicle he was racing.  Rodriguez is due in Court on April 29th.

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NY woman charged for Wilton jewelry store robbery

A New York woman has been charged for an October 2017 jewelry store robbery in Wilton.  Police Detectives traveled to Bedford Hills Correctional Center and took custody of Paula Hurtado on an active arrest warrant.  The 38-year old Astoria woman was extradited to Connecticut to face felony Larceny charges. 

Wilton Police say she is the third of four suspects.  Three women distracted the two salespersons while a man allegedly took $21,000 worth of jewelry from behind the counter and put it in a brown paper shopping bag.  The suspects purchased an item with cash and left with the stolen items. 

Hurtado posted bond and is due back in court on the 26th.  The final suspect in the case is currently incarcerated and will be extradited from New York when they complete their prison  sentence. 

32-year old Erika Santa of Jamaica Queens and 56-year old Yolanda Santa of Ridgewood were charged.  Both are due in court on April 23rd.

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Weston teen honored during Connecticut Immigrant Day

The Connecticut Immigrant & Refugee Coalition and the Secretary of the State's Office is hosting the 22nd Annual Connecticut Immigrant Day today at the state capitol.  The Weston High School Youth Group and Sophia Jacobs will receive the Angela Andersen Memorial Award, created to honor students who demonstrate deep commitment to issues impacting refugees and immigrants.  The students created and implemented a Refugee Youth One-on-One Mentoring Program.  Jacobs, now a high school senior, started the group, which meets weekly.  They provide homework help for students in grades 1 through 5.  Jacobs says this fills a need for refugee youth who can feel socially isolated, especially in the afterschool hours while parents are at work.

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Murder-suicide in New Fairfield under investigation

State Police are investigating a murder suicide in New Fairfield.  The local Police Department and Resident State Trooper referred questions to the state police Public Information Office, which confirmed the incident last night, but declined to say when or where the murder-suicide happened.  The identities of the victims were withheld pending notification of next of kin.  News 12 Connecticut however identified them as Michael and Jennifer Ciorra.  According to the report, 51-year old Michael was stabbed and beaten by his wife, 47-year old Jennifer, who then died of carbon monoxide poisoning.  Property records show the couple lived on Cornell Road and that they had two sons.  The Broadcast report says the New Fairfield School District would have grief counselors available today and tomorrow.

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Bethel Board of Finance trims proposed budget for coming year

The Bethel Board of Finance has cut hundreds of thousands of dollars from the proposed municipal budget for the coming fiscal year.  The new budget is $31.6 million. 

Taxes would go up by 1.65 percent under the revised proposal, down from the 2.24 percent tax rate hike in the original plan.  $30,000 was cut from school maintenance, $25,000 from police overtime, $5,000 from the senior center, $25,000 from Parks and Rec and $10,000 cut from the building and highway departments. 

Debt service will be offset by some state funding Bethel officials just learned would be heading to the town from the high school renovation project. 

Bethel residents approved the school budget and the capital item during a referendum last week.  The town meeting is scheduled for April 24th at 7pm in the municipal center.

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Road map to debt-free community college advances in Connecticut

An area legislator is touting a bill coming out of the Higher Education & Employment Advancement Committee.  Ridgefield Senator Will Haskell says the proposal is a roadmap to debt-free community college, allowing high school graduates to begin their studies at community college without accruing debt. Students would need to maintain a GPA above 2.5, accept all available financial aid, and come from households with income of roughly $70,000 or less.  Haskell says the business community told the committee that 75 percent of jobs will require higher education beyond a high school diploma by 2025.

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Appeal focuses on Newtown officials' actions before shooting

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut appeals court is set to hear arguments in a lawsuit alleging Sandy Hook Elementary School officials failed to order a lockdown that could have saved lives before a gunman killed 20 first-graders and six educators in 2012.

The hearing before the state Appellate Court is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon.

The parents of two children killed at the Newtown school are appealing the dismissal of their lawsuit by a trial court judge, who ruled school officials were immune from being sued and security protocols were discretionary. The parents are seeking undisclosed damages and hope the case results in safety procedures being followed in the future.

A lawyer for the town and school district has said there is no evidence school officials did anything wrong.

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Danbury woman to be recognized by Connecticut Immigrant & Refugee Coalition

A Danbury woman will be among the 19 immigrants being recognized at the State Capitol today. 

The Connecticut Immigrant & Refugee Coalition is honoring the residents from 16 countries for their contributions to the state and the nation.  Emanuela Palmares will be honored during the 22nd Annual Connecticut Immigrant Day observance with the Office of Secretary of the State.  She is a Danbury Board of Education member, editor and Partner of Tribuna Newspaper and founder of the committee to plan Connecticut's first International Children's Museum. 

The coalition of about a dozen organizations across Connecticut promotes the rights and opportunities of immigrants and refugees in Connecticut and to foster their civic participation.  The individuals, including many who have been in the state for decades and some more recent immigrants, came to the United States from Brazil, Egypt, Greece, and elsewhere.

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Candlewood Lake Clean Up seeks volunteers

Registration for the 2019 Annual Candlewood Lake Clean Up is now open.  The Candlewood Lake Authority host the event to make sure the water and shoreline are clean for the boating season ahead. This year's Clean Up is scheduled for Saturday May 18th.  Volunteers will take boats from each of the town parks around Candlewood to pick up litter from around different areas of the lake.  Everything that is picked up is delivered to a dumpster in New Fairfield Town Park, where a cook-out lunch will be held for volunteers, featuring food from local restaurants and vendors.  Anyone with a boat is being asked to consider being a volunteer captain to take volunteers out on the water.  Gloves and bags are provided.

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Two Danbury elementary schools to get new principals

Ellsworth Avenue Elementary School in Danbury is getting a new principal.  Marnie Durkin began her career as an elementary school teacher, spending more than ten years in the classroom, before working as a math specialist in Danbury elementary schools.   She later served as the principal of South Street School and assistant principal of Park Avenue School. 

Superintendent Dr Sal Pascarella says Durkin's  breadth of experience in the classroom as well as her hands-on experience as an administrator in several of the City's elementary schools made her the clear choice to continue to move Ellsworth Avenue School forward. 

Durkin earned a B.A. in elementary education and a Master of Science/Reading from Western Connecticut State University, as well as a Sixth-Year degree in educational leadership from Southern Connecticut State University. 

Morris Street Elementary School in Danbury is also getting a new principal.  Kristen Bradley joined the district two years ago as a language arts specialist, following a 20-year career in education in which she taught across all elementary grades and later assumed the roles of data and literacy coach that reflected her knowledge and teaching experience.

Pascarella says Bradley has already established herself as a master teacher at the elementary-school level, and her academic coaching experience has earned her tremendous respect with her colleagues. 

Bradley earned a B.A. in elementary education from Stonehill College, a Master of Education in reading from Lesley College and a Sixth-Year degree in educational leadership from Southern Connecticut State University. 

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Brookfield, DOT disagree on grant language putting $250k at risk for streetscaping

There could be a funding issue with part of the Brookfield streetscape project, which would also delay the work. Project Manager Greg Dembowski told the Board of Selectmen that he's been meeting for three weeks with the Department of Transportation of the interpretation of a regulation.  

A LOTCIP grant is being sought for Phase 3, like Phase 1.  Phase 3 is the first portion not on a state road, but rather on what's called an Urban Collector Road.  Old Route 7 is owned by the town. 

LOTCIP qualifications talk about collector roads, but the language is vague.  The Western Connecticut Council of Governments, which is submitting the application on behalf of the town, agrees that the road is eligible.  But there's been a change of personnel at the DOT since Phase 1, and they say some things are not eligible for reimbursement. 

With the issue unresolved, it puts $250,000 at stake.  If the DOT decides that work on the feeder road needs town money, Dembowksi says Brookfield would need to seek additional town funding, or cut the scope of the project to stay on budget. 

First Selectman Steve Dunn says they need continuity in the downtown area and for things to look similar throughout the project.  He feels like they are shooting at a moving target with the rule changes and plans to fight for the funding. 

Dunn says if the matter is not resolved soon, he will set up an appointment with the DOT Commissioner.

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Candlewood Fire Company expects delivery this summer of new fire rescue boat

Candlewood Volunteer Fire Company is expecting the delivery of Marine 25 in mid-summer.  They sold their old 26-foot boat last year to make room for a new fire/rescue boat.

The in-production Marine 25 is being built by Lake Assault Boats in Wisconsin. It will be an aluminum landing-craft style boat with a center console that will be docked on Candlewood Lake during the boating season. When needed, it will be able to respond to Lake Lillinonah for emergencies.

The bow gate on the front will allow direct access to the waterline so patients can be easily removed from the water. Marine 25 will have the space to have a patient on the deck giving EMS personnel the ability to work around them.

Under the deck there will be a fire pump which will be used to fight boat, forest and house fires on the islands and the surrounding shore.  The GPS system will have downscan and sidescan sonar.  Fire officials say adding sidescan sonar will allow them to identify people and objects submerged underwater, regardless of water condition. 

The vessel will also have 4 high-output scene lights on the corners of the boat will allow firefighters to light up the area around it for night-time fire and rescue incidents.  The vessel will be equipped with solar panels to help keep equipment charged. 

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NY woman found guilty on murder charge

A New York woman has been convicted of murder for fatally shooting her boyfriend in 2017.  Putnam County District Attorney Robert Tendy prosecuted the case and says a jury convicted Nicole Addimando last week after three days of deliberations. 

The Poughkeepsie woman was found sitting in her car sometime after the shooting and didn't move despite the traffic light changing.  She told a responding officer that she had just killed her boyfriend in self-defense.  Addimando claimed she had been abused for years by Christopher Grover. 

DA Tendy says there were inconsistencies and an overwhelming evidence of intentional murder.  The Deputy Medical Examiner testified that the gunshot wound was a hard, tight, contact wound caused by the muzzle of the gun pressed directly to Grover’s temple as he lay on his couch. Other evidence showed defendant had done internet searches on “what will happen if someone was asleep and then someone shot them in the head? Will they wake up or die instantly?”

Addimando faces 25 years to life. She will be sentenced on June 10th.

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Judge sides with Danbury on drive-thru permit denial

Dunkin Donuts has lost a court fight with the City of Danbury's Planning Commission.  The coffee chain applied for a special permit to open a drive-thru at 110 Mill Plain Road, but the Commission denied the request.  Dunkin estimated that the drive-thru would be 60-percent of their business, but the zone doesn't allow for those kinds of windows.  Planners said the traffic design was configured in an unconventional way.  The company called the Commission's decision retaliatory, discriminatory, and reached without evidence that a drive-thru would make traffic worse.  Judge Andrew Roraback ruled that the traffic flow would be problematic and that zoning authorities must be able to make decisions because on reasonable planning for contemporary or future conditions. 

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Regional planners seek input on bicycle infrastructure needs

The regional planning agency for the area spanning from Sherman down to Stamford wants input on bicycle facilities and safety.  The Western Connecticut Council of Governments has put together a survey for local residents, employees and visitors.  The survey results will help WestCOG plan more connected and safer facilities for bicyclists in the region. Several trail projects in western Connecticut received funding, creating some great momentum.  Officials says demand for active transportation options continues to grow throughout our state.

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Former Brookfield PTO official seeks diversionary program in embezzlement case

A former Brookfield PTO official is seeking to apply for a diversionary program after initially pleading not guilty to alleged embezzlement.  39-year old Monica Bevilacqua was arrested in December for allegedly bilking the Center School PTO out of $12,700.  She was in court last week and asked to apply for the diversionary program, offering to pay full restitution.  Bevilacqua is accused of issuing herself 11 checks, forging someone else's signature on three of them.  She also charged the PTO's credit card for 139 Amazon purchases, 24 DoorDash food delivery purchases and 19 other merchant purchases.  The PTO doesn’t receive any public funding. Bevilacqua is due back in court May 14th.

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Bridge removal begins in New Fairfield

A lengthy road closure in New Fairfield is under way to replace a bridge along Saw Mill Road.  First Selectman Pat Del Monaco is attending bi-weekly progress meetings.  She notes that the first progress meeting was held last week, and removal of the existing bridge has begun.  Some of the masonry will be removed shortly. The next steps will include construction of a temporary earth retaining system, driving test piles and performing a load analysis and setting piles for the new construction. Environmental controls including silt fence and a turbidity curtain in Ball Pond Brook have been installed.

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Woodbury Police seek information on hit & run accident

The Woodbury Police Department is asking for help from the public in identifying the operator of a white or light colored pick up truck that was involved in an evading accident that resulted in significant property damage.  The driver of the other vehicle sustained injuries on Friday.  The accident happened shortly before 9pm when the pickup truck crossed the double yellow line on Sycamore Avenue in the area of Bear Hill Road.  Police say the vehicle likely sustained driver's side damage and possibly gray or black paint transfer. The female operator from Southbury sustained cuts to her face as well as an injured shoulder. She was transported to the hospital for treatment. Anyone with information is asked to contact Woodbury Police Officer DeFeo at 203-850-8288.

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Danbury Police to again participate in Law Enforcement Torch Run for Special Olympics

Last year, the "Adopt A Mile Fundraiser" in Danbury helped raise thousands of dollars to support the Special Olympics Connecticut during the Connecticut Law Enforcement Torch Run. The Danbury Police Department will once again be raising money this year.  On June 7th, the Danbury Police Department will carry the Torch during their "leg" of the run through the City.  Police say contributions will help provide year round athletic training and competition for over 13,000 athletes and unified partners throughout the state.

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Connecticut company lays off 135 employees

DANBURY, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut fuel cell maker has announced that it is laying off 135 employees, a move it says will save $11.5 million annually.

FuelCell Energy Inc. announced the layoffs Friday. The company has headquarters in Danbury and its main factory in Torrington.

FuelCell reported a $33 million loss in the first quarter of its fiscal year covering November through January, with revenue down by more than half to $17.8 million. The company's assets totaled $346 million entering February, including $27.7 million in cash unrestricted by any contractual requirements.

In January, FuelCell reworked the terms of a $10 million loan from the state, reducing a job requirement.

The company reported having 430 employees in Connecticut as of October.

 

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Police: man wandered naked into another person's home

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) - Police in Connecticut say a man crashed his SUV into a stranger's yard and then wandered in the house naked.

Newtown Police say 35-year-old Joseph Achenbach, of Watertown, crashed his Ford Escape into the rear yard of a house while the homeowners were shopping Saturday morning.

The homeowners returned to find Achenbach wandering around naked. Police say he entered through an unlocked sliding glass door and was apparently naked when he crashed his vehicle as his clothes could not be located. They say alcohol and possibly drugs played a role in Achenbach's behavior.

Achenbach has been charged with criminal trespassing, reckless endangerment, disorderly conduct and driving while intoxicated. He's being held on $5,000 bond and will appear in court Monday. It's not immediately clear if he has a lawyer.

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Funeral arrangements announced for former longtime Bethel Board of Ed chairman

Funeral services have been announced for former longtime Bethel Board of Education chairman Larry Craybas.  A celebration of his life will be held at St. Mary Catholic Church on Monday from noon to 2PM and 4 to 8pm.  A Mass of Christian burial will be held Tuesday, 11AM at St. Mary Church.  Immediately following the service, a gathering with be held in the Parish Hall.  In lieu of flowers, his family requests donations to the Bethel High School Scholarship Fund, or the Scotty Fund.  His family will be holding a future blood drive as a thank you to the American Red Cross.

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Brookfield touts Emerson move to Berkshire Corporate Park

The town of Brookfield has put out an official statement about Emerson planning to build a new $49 million global headquarters in Brookfield for its Branson welding, assembly and cleaning technologies.  Brookfield has given the global technology and engineering company an incentive package that will help with the to a 13-acre parcel in Berkshire Industrial Park.  Groundbreaking for construction is currently scheduled for June. The new facility will house 220 professional staff, engineers and the production team.  The 140,000-square-foot building will include laboratories, offices, manufacturing space, and a customer experience center.  First Selectman Steve Dunn says Brookfield has the infrastructure and business-friendly zoning regulations to allow companies to get their projects approved quickly.

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Trout fishing season opens

Rogers Park Pond in Danbury is part of the Community Fishing Waters, a state program that encourages fishing in urban areas.  Saturday marked opening day of trout fishing season.  The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection began the stocking in late February of more than 315,000 trout in nearly 100 Connecticut lakes and ponds and 130 rivers and streams.   DEEP will continue releasing trout through mid-to-late May. DEEP officials expect approximately 507,000 trout will ultimately be stocked.  Families had an opportunity to help stock trout at nine of the parks on opening day.  Three spots along Leadmine Brook in Harwinton in the Roraback Wildlife Management Area weren't stocked due to beaver activity.

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Mount Tom Preserve in New Milford reopens following renovations

Mount Tom Preserve in New Milford is officially reopened after a series of improvements to the property.  The New Milford Youth Agency built a wooden kiosk with a new sign and map, and added new planks and two bridges over wetlands.  The grass parking area was expanded, trails cleared of brush and signs were installed to mark the orange and white trails.  Work on the preserve was done through a $10,000 grant from the Connecticut Community Foundation and a $5,000 grant from the Iroquois Pipeline Community Grant Program.  Mayor Pete Bass thanked the local land trust for its conservation efforts.  The land is owned by the Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust.  The state has a goal of preserving 21 percent of its land mass.

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Monroe Police raise thousands for Connecticut Cancer Foundation

Monroe Police Officer Nick Franzago has been presented with a Certificate of Appreciation by the Connecticut Cancer Foundation. The Police Department raised $2,285 during the No Shave November campaign and 100% of the proceeds went to the Connecticut Cancer Foundation.

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WCSU makes top ten 'best value colleges' in Connecticut

Earning a college degree can come with a large price tag.  In a new study, SmartAsset considered various factors to find the colleges that give the largest return on investment.  Of the top ten best value colleges in Connecticut, West Conn was ranked 6th.  The average scholarship and grant award listed was $5,700, while tuition and student living costs were about $25,000.  The average starting salary for a West Conn grad was determined to be nearly $51,000.  Retention rate at the university is 73-percent.

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Bethel Republican Town Committee annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner tonight

The annual Lincoln-Reagan Dinner hosted by the Bethel Republican Town Committee is being held today.  Former State Senators Toni Boucher and Michael McLachlan will be named Republicans of the Year at the event.  The John L. Thiele Distinguished Service Award will go to Steve Deuschle.  The Denis J. Riordan Award will be presented to Bethel Zoning Board of Appeals member John Streaman.  The event is at Michael’s at the Grove.

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Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue Food Truck Frenzy is tomorrow

Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue Food Truck Frenzy is tomorrow.  The fundraising event for the fire department takes place rain or shine from 11am to 5pm.  At least six food trucks will be participating, two local businesses are coordinating the beer garden, and there will be activities for children and adults.  Admission is $2, free for age 12 and under.  Firefighters are asking that service dogs be the only animals on site.  Parking is available at Newtown Senior Center and Sandy Hook School.

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Local lawmaker introduces bill about youth HIV prevention

Bethel State Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan has introduced a bill which now awaits a vote by the House of Representatives.  The legislation voted out of committee a bill which would allow doctors to prescribe HIV prevention pill PrEP to minors without parental consent.  He says young people should not have to wait until after contracting HIV to access care.  Connecticut currently allows minors to access HIV testing and treatment — but not HIV prevention — without parental consent.  Allie-Brennan says this pill remains out-of-reach to many youth, especially those who do not feel safe talking to their parents about their sexuality.  Yesterday was National Youth HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

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Women's Center raises $325.000 at annual fundraising dinner

The Women’s Center hosted its annual dinner, “An Evening Together,” in Danbury last week.  More than 300 guests celebrated their achievements as they work to end the violence in the community. The annual dinner is one of three major fundraisers for the Center and this year over $325,000 was collected to support programs and services, all of which are provided free of charge.  This year, Danbury Hospital and New Milford Hospital’s Emergency Rooms were honored with the Founders Award, which is given in honor of the three founding members of the center. The Hospitals were chosen for their collaboration with the Women’s Center in serving domestic violence and sexual assault victims in their 13-town area.

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Groundbreaking ceremony held in Bethel for Rockwell, Johnson schools projects

A groundbreaking ceremony was held yesterday for the Rockwell and Johnson Schools renovation projects.  The schools, the town and Rizzo Corporation hosted the ceremony in Johnson's side parking lot.  The ceremony was dedicated to former Board of Education chairman Larry Craybas, who passed away over the weekend after a battle with Leukemia.  He served a decade on the board, the past 8 years as it's leader. 

The project has been in the works for over 10 years.  The Board of Education began discussing the feasibility in the early 2000s.  45 percent of eligible costs for the renovations will be covered by state reimbursement.  

Rockwell and Johnson school mascots Rocky the Ram and Jazzy the Jaguar.

(Photo: Bethel Public Schools Facebook)

Site work is now underway and construction is expected to be completed by December 2020.  Portable classrooms, with utilities, are being installed. 

Johnson School was built in 1980 to house grades 4 and 5.  Rockwell School, which was built in 1971, was renovated in 1977.  Rockwell is one of two schools in Bethel for kindergarten through third graders.  Superintendent of Schools Dr Christine Carver says they're trying to build schools that keep the 21st Century student in mind, creating a learning environment that will best prepare students to be part of a global workforce.

Among the areas in need of upgrade is compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act in the bathrooms.  Both schools have problems in heating and cooling, and after renovations the buildings will be climate controlled. Neither building has central AC currently.  The bus loop and parent drop off currently presents a safety concern.  The project design separates the bus and parent drop off. The fill removed from the back of Rockwell will be used to expand the playground area.

A new rear staircase and elevator will be installed at Rockwell, and the front parking lot will be raised up.  At Johnson school, there will be some partial tree removal, gym demolition and construction and the new addition of the 5th grade wing, including STEM room and media center, will start.

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Bethel town budget fails, school budget approved in Thursday referendum

In the Bethel Budget Referendum, the Town portion of the tax and spending plan was defeated by fewer than two dozen votes.  The School Budget and Capital Budget were approved according to preliminary numbers from the Registrar of Voters. The Bethel Board of Finance will meet Tuesday to revise the Town Budget, reconvene the Town Meeting, and then adjourn to a machine vote in May.  Even though the municipal side was voted down by just 23 votes, there will not be a recount.  Residents approved the school portion by about 150 votes while the capital budget was approved be more than 500 votes.

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Public hearing Monday in Danbury on proposed budget

There is a public hearing in Danbury on Monday April 15th about the budget that's been proposed for the coming fiscal year.  The hearing is also about the $3 million in bonding proposed for the capital budget.  The City Council will take comments from 7pm to 9pm in Council Chambers on the 3rd floor of City Hall.  The Council will meet as a committee of the whole immediately following the public hearing.

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Danbury officials seek grant to create Riverwalk, make downtown more walkable

Danbury officials are applying for a grant through the AARP to make parts of the City more livable for all ages.  The Downtown Danbury Transit-Oriented Development Study introduced the idea of a Riverwalk, and making downtown sidewalks more walkable.  The Departments of Public Works, Public Health and Planning and Zoning are applying for $80,000 in grant funding to improve the underutilized sidewalk along the Still River.  The area they're looking to improve is along Lee Hartell Drive from White Street to Crosby Street.  If approved, the grant funding would also create an interactive sidewalk playscape and a public art program.  A stamped crosswalk would provide access across White Street to National Place as a safe crossing to the Danbury Green.

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UNIT seeks to crack down on snow parking ban violators in Danbury next year

Over 20 vehicles were tagged by the UNIT to clear all of the snow off and around their vehicles during the last winter storm in Danbury.  The Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team also required them to remove the snow from the road as well.  Director Shawn Stillman is working with Corporation Counsel to adopt enforcement to issue a fine for those vehicles that are left on the street when there is a parking ban from a Snow Emergency Declaration. Over the last month, UNIT issued over 40 tickets due to sidewalk parking and general parking violations. Stillman says tags and verbal warnings do not always work.   Already in 2019, the UNIT has issued over 70 parking violation tickets.

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Bethel RTC seeks new candidate for First Selectman

The Bethel Republican Town Committee will be looking for a new candidate for First Selectman.  Steve Deuschle has dropped out of the race, citing family reasons.  In a letter to the RTC this week, the community volunteer said it was the perfect storm of person stuff he knows is coming.  Deuschle declined to detail the issues, but said he wanted to put his family first. 

He plans to continue working as board president for the Bethel Community Food Pantry, but may seek a leave of absence from the Planning and Zoning Commission.  He also volunteers with Brotherhood in Action and the Scotty Fund.

The Republican Town Committee unanimously endorsed Deuschle in February, along with longtime Selectman Paul Szatkowski.  The Committee will vote for its slate of candidates at its caucus in July. 

This comes as Democratic incumbent Matt Knickerbocker announced that he will seek reelection.  Knickerbocker was first elected to the position in 2009.  His running mate, Democratic Selectman Richard Straiton, will also be on the ticket.

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Location announced for Danbury Fair Uncle Sam statue

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton has announced a location for the world's largest Uncle Sam statue.  The Danbury Fair memorabilia will stand at the Danbury Railway Museum off Patriot Drive.  It's near Leahy's, the longtime sponsor of the Fair.

Work starts today to get the site ready for the refurbished statue. 

Boughton says the face has been changed a bit, to make him look more welcoming.  When the fiberglass structure was put on the bed of the towing truck to leave Magic Forest Amusement Park, its arm was too tall to fit under highway overpasses.  The hand was cut off, but has since been reattached.  Boughton says they've also attached a walking stick.  The original structure was damaged, but it's now been fixed. 

(Photo: Mark Boughton)

A lot of the funding needed to get this project through to completion came in the form of in-kind donations.  Mariano Brothers has done all of the hauling, Rizzo is doing the lighting and Boughton says a local company is donating the concrete for the foundation.  FuelCell Energy, the Ecuadorian Civic group and others donated money.  A GoFundMe page also raised several thousand dollars. 

The statue will be erected at the beginning of next month and an unveiling event will be announced.

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Danbury gets high marks in safety, diversity in new surveys

Danbury gets high marks in two new surveys.

With immigration policy remaining a hot-button issue in 2019’s political landscape, the personal-finance website WalletHub today released its report on 2019’s Most Diverse Cities in America.  Danbury ranks 11th overall but 4th among small cities.  To determine the places in the U.S. with the most mixed demographics, WalletHub compared the profiles of more than 500 of the largest cities across five major diversity categories: socioeconomic, cultural, economic, household and religious. 

In the area of safety, a study conducted by Reviews.com was just released that positions Danbury as the Safest Large City in the state, and the 2nd Safest City in Connecticut overall.  Danbury is ranked in the Top 50 Safest Cities in the Country.  The categories analyzed include statistics on violent and property crimes.

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Connecticut Association of School Based Health Centers honors Danbury nurse practitioner

The Connecticut Association of School Based Health Centers has named a Danbury nurse practitioner as Provider of the Year.   Karen White has worked at the Danbury High School School-Based Health Center since 2001. She joined Connecticut Institute For Communities in 2013 when the Danbury-based nonprofit took over operations for the City.  White also currently works at the organization's school-based health center at Newtown Middle School.  White will be honored on May 10 at the Connecticut Association of School Based Health Centers conference in Southbury. There are about 100 school-based health centers statewide offering primary care and behavioral health services, with dental services also offered at Rogers Park and Danbury High schools.

 

 

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Park Avenue School students participate in kindness activities, get rewarded for their efforts

Five first grade classes from Park Avenue School in Danbury recently participated in a Random Acts of Kindness program created by Connecticut-based L.E.A.D. USA.  For two weeks, the 110 first-graders journaled about the nice things they did and how it made them and others feel.  

They weren't told there would be a reward for their participation, but it turned out there would be. 

More than 60 employees of Ridgefield-based Boehringer Ingelheim gathered for a day of team building, led by the organization and built bicycles for 16 kids.  The day was to promote service to the community while working in small teams, without written instructions.  16 students were chosen by their teachers to show up at the workshop and were asked what it means to be a good team member.  They told the pharmaceutical employees that being kind and helping each other out was best. 

When asked about what to do with the newly assembled bikes, the kids suggested giving them to kids in need.  Instead, the students received the bikes.  Members of the Danbury Police Department were on hand to properly fit the helmets and review bike safety tips with the students.

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Ridgefield man arrested for alleged burglary of former employer

A Ridgefield man has been arrested for allegedly burglarizing his former employer.  New York State Police Troopers from the Brewster barracks arrested 32-year old Karl Knoche last Thursday on charges of burglary and petit larceny.  An investigation determined that Knoche forced entry into his former employer’s business building, and stole 10 valve regulated lead acid batteries.  He was issued an appearance ticket for Southeast Court on April 18th.

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Congresswoman grills Education Secretary over federal dollars used to arm teachers

At a hearing before the U.S. House Committee on Education and Labor yesterday, 5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes questioned Education Secretary Betsy DeVos about the use of federal funds to buy firearms for teachers.  DeVos previously maintained that she lacks the statutory authority to approve or deny such requests.  Through Freedom of Information Act requests, Hayes obtained a deliberative document, or “Decision Memo” from the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education.  The document directly contradicts the Secretary's claims that she does not have the authority to respond to use of federal funds to arm teachers.  Hayes was critical of funding being taken from the Every Student Succeeds Act, which pays for programs like STEM education, drug prevention programs, and mental health services.

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Bethel budget vote today

Bethel residents are at the polls today voting on a tax and spending plan for the coming fiscal year.  If the budget is approved, the tax rate would would be hiked by 2.24 percent. First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says there's some funding for the schools in the municipal portion of the plan.

Tax watchdog group Bethel Action Committee founder Billy Michael opposes the budget, saying it includes a 5-percent spending increase.

Knickerbocker says most of the proposed budget increase is because of debt service on the police station, the high school upgrades and the current renovations to Rockwell and Johnson schools. 

Residents will be asked three funding questions, with advisory questions on whether the municipal and school portions of the spending plan are too high or too low.  The budget for the coming fiscal year includes $31.9 million for the general operating budget and $46.6 million for the schools.  There is an increase in enrollment at the schools.  The municipal portion includes $5.2 million of debt service.  The increase in Debt Service accounts for 34 percent of the total increase in spending. 

The last question on the ballot asks if residents want to borrow $1 million to replace the boilers at the high school. 

One thing not included in the budget, which was defeated last year is money for a turf field.  Advocates are raising donations for a turf field, and have collected more than $ 150,000 so far.

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Connecticut businessman convicted in human trafficking case

DANBURY, Conn. (AP) A 65-year-old Connecticut businessman has been convicted of involvement with a human trafficking ring that preyed on mentally ill and intellectually disabled boys and young men.

The six-member jury in Danbury Superior Court on Wednesday convicted Bruce Bemer of Glastonbury.

Bemer, the owner of the New London-Waterford Speedbowl racetrack, has admitted he patronized prostitutes. But his lawyer, Anthony Spinella, denied there was any human trafficking. He was found guilty of several counts related to human trafficking.

A prosecutor told the jury that co-defendant Robert King found the victims at drug rehabs, group homes and other places and brought them to Bemer for sex acts. King has pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.

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Justices: Court wrong to meddle with Sept. 11 widow's funds

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The Connecticut Supreme Court says a lower court was wrong to tell the widow of a World Trade Center attack victim how she could use nearly $1.3 million in Sept. 11 victim compensation funds earmarked for her daughter.

The 7-0 decision released Wednesday ends a decade-long dispute between a probate court and Carolyne Hynes, whose husband, Thomas, died in the 2001 terrorist attack.

The Weston woman was awarded $2.4 million from the fund including $1.3 million for the needs of her daughter, who was born six months after her father died.

Hynes' lawyer says the Norwalk probate court improperly ordered the $1.3 million to be placed in a guardianship account and wouldn't let her use it for expenses related to the child.

Hynes will now have control of the money.

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Local lawmaker introduces bill to hold some legislative pay if budget approval is late

New Milford State Representative Bill Buckbee has submitted a proposal that would cut pay to legislators, if the state budget is not passed by the statutory deadline.  According to current state law, the budget must be passed by the final day of the legislative session. The proposal calls for all legislators and constitutional officers to have their salary reduced in proportion to the number of days that elapse before a state budget is enacted.  Buckbee called it common sense to implement some form of accountability.  He notes that the budget bind is getting tighter, but that does not excuse lawmakers from tackling it and implementing corrective policies that address the growing pension liability and general debt.

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Putnam County Sheriff warns of possible driveway paving scam

Putnam County residents are being warned of a possible driveway paving scam.  The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office received a complaint over the weekend about an incident last week.  On April 2nd, two white males approached a homeowner and identified themselves as a paving company.  They told the homeowner that they had extra asphalt, allegedly left over from another job, and offered to pave his driveway for $1,500. When the work was near completion, they demanded  $5,500. Sheriff Robert Langley reminded residents to be cautious and get the price of services in writing before work begins.

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Wilton Police investigating credit card theft, illegal use

The Wilton Police Department is investigating the illegal use of a credit card. Two white males were captured on surveillance footage seen using the card to purchase a watch. One subject is cleanly shaven while the other male appears to have facial hair. Anyone that can identify the subjects or had their cards stolen and used is asked to contact Wilton Police.

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Danbury Democratic Mayoral challenger raises $105k in first quarter

Danbury Democratic candidate for Mayor, Chris Setaro raised more than $105,000 since December.  Over 500 contributors were noted in the total, with the campaign having more than $85,000 cash on hand.  Setaro, an attorney who once served as City Council President, says the show of support makes it clear to him that some residents are ready for change and for results.  His campaign has focused on investing in the schools, revitalizing the downtown, bringing back community policing and fixing infrastructure.

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WCSU students receive Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Award

Western Connecticut State University seniors Layra Caridad Valdes Ramirez and Victor Namer are the recipients of this year’s Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Award for their outstanding academic achievement, on-campus participation and dedication to community involvement. Each year, up to 12 graduating seniors enrolled in Connecticut state universities are presented with the award. Ramirez is a Biochemistry major with a biology minor who will graduate in May with a Bachelor of Arts in Chemistry, ACS Approved. Namer has dual majors in Psychology and Political Science with a minor in Conflict Resolution, and will receive Bachelor of Arts degrees in both Psychology and Political Science next month.

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New Milford Town Council accepts land donation

The New Milford Town Council has accepted a donation of 35 acres of land connected to Tory's Cave Preserve.  There were some concerns last month from members about the wooded land near Squash Hollow Road over whether it would become a liability or financial burden.  Eagle Holdings owned the land, and it abuts 25 acres the company donated to New Milford in 2012.  The donation means that 170 continues acres would be protected by the Weantinoge Heritage Land Trust.  The Connecticut Forest and Park Association maintains a hiking trail in the area as well.  The Conservation Commission presented information to the Town Council that the Blue Trail has ancient sections that were Native American walking trails.

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Bethel looks to improve animal control facility to comply with state mandates

Bethel officials are making plans to fix the animal control facility in town.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker said during the latest Board of Selectmen meeting that the renovations are a mandate from the state.  He added that the town is close to being sanctioned and fined if they do not. 

He wants to find the most economical way to meet the mandates.  Knickerbocker called the new regulations onerous, including having a separate place for dogs and cats and separate quarantine areas.  It's been suggested that the town just start over and build a new facility, but that would cost at least $500,000.  Knickerbocker says they can renovate the current facility for far less by using a design build service, but it would require a bid waiver. 

Jay Duhamel, Account Manager of software company Gordian presented the ezIQC system to the board.  He made a presentation about their work in Connecticut and how it could fit with the proposed animal shelter renovations.

The Selectmen decided to review the proposal at the next Board of Selectmen meeting.

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RHS baseball coaches placed on leave after field fire

Three Ridgefield High School varsity baseball coaches have been placed on administrative leave pending the conclusion of a police investigation into the Governor Park fire.  The Superintendent announced the decision in a letter to parents saying he doesn't believe the coaching staff was directly involved, but that the move was done out of an abundance of caution.  Dr William Collins said he was working with Ridgefield Police and is cooperating in the investigation of who poured gasoline on the team’s field over the weekend.  Collins said in the letter that there were no students involved in the pouring or igniting.

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Conn. State Police Trooper honored for capture of NYC homicide suspect in 2018

A Connecticut State Police Trooper is being recognized for apprehending a New York City homicide suspect last year in Southbury.   Secure Watch24 named Jason Cassavechia as their 2018 Officer of the Year recipient. 

The trooper, and K9 partner Favor, had one of the 42 State Police vehicles equipped with a mobile License Plate Recognition system that day.  The high-speed cameras rapidly run registration plates against data from the Department of Motor Vehicles and the National Crime Information Center.  Alerts for everything from expired registration plates, wanted fugitives, stolen vehicles and missing or suicidal persons come through as an audible alarm and notification on the trooper’s laptop. 

Secure Watch24 highlighted Cassavechia’s attention to detail, work ethic and dedication to Connecticut residents.

(Photo: CSP)

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New owner of Danbury Ice Arena won't host animal circus anymore

There were protests over the weekend as Garden Bros. Circus performed at Danbury Ice Arena.  Now PETA has reached out to the venue's new owner, Diamond Properties, about not allowing animal circuses to perform there in the future.  Bill Diamond said they are proud to align with PETA and its commitment to animal rights causes. 

Garden Bros. Circus has an "F" rating from the Better Business Bureau.  The company currently using two elephants, even though PETA says one is chronically lame, likely as a result of prolonged chaining and confinement.

In a 2017 whistleblower complaint, a former Garden Bros. employee described frequently seeing elephants with blood dripping from behind their ears. The whistleblower also reported that a camel handler beat, punched, and kicked a camel after a performance.

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Details of Sherman alleged murder outlined in arrest warrant

More details are being outline in an arrest warrant of a Sherman man accused of killing his husband in their home last month.  The documents, obtained by Hearst Connecticut Media, say that too much blood was soaked through the mattress and spattered on the walls and stained into the clothes of James Maharg for police to believe that his husband died from hitting his head on a cabinet.

The 65-year old reportedly confessed after police told him they knew the couple abandoned their Manhattan business, lost their farmhouse to foreclosure, and had been hospitalized multiple times for alcoholic incoherence. 

Maharg has been charged with evidence tampering and murder in the death of 63-year old Thomas Conley.  According to the warrant, Maharg and his husband had been drinking tequila all day when a verbal argument turned physical, but the suspect couldn't tell police the object used or the time frame.  The official cause of death from the Connecticut Chief Medical Examiner’s Office was “chop wounds." 

Maharg is due in Court April 23rd.

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Putnam County offering active shooter preparedness training

The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office provides free active shooter training. The Citizen Response to Active Shooter Events is offered to the public on a monthly basis. The next one is being offered Thursday night from 6 to 9 PM at the Putnam County Bureau of Emergency Services  headquarters on Old Route 6 in Carmel.

Seating is limited and registration is required. 

The goal is to have Putnam County residents assess their level of preparedness and seek guidance from local law enforcement agencies. 

Soon after the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School, the Federal Bureau of Investigation partnered with the Bureau of Justice Assistance to increase the delivery of active shooter training throughout the nation. The curriculum was developed in conjunction with Texas State University to empower people from all walks of life with the knowledge and skills necessary to survive an active shooter event.

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Women's Center accepting applications for volunteer training programs

The Women’s Center is now accepting applications for their spring 2019 dual Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Certification program. This 48-hour training class certifies volunteers to perform crisis intervention at the Center during business hours or from home when the Center is closed. 

It is a prerequisite for court advocate, counselor advocate, group facilitator, and other advanced direct service volunteer positions. Week day training classes begin Tuesday, May 28th. 

During the last fiscal year, the Women’s Center responded to over 3,000 sexual assault and domestic violence hotline calls, in addition to providing emergency shelter, counseling services, advocacy services, community education and prevention programs, and information and referral services. More than 33,000 clients in the greater Danbury area were served by the Center’s programs and services.

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Bethel Planning hosts hearing on proposed shared parking behind Dolan Plaza

The Bethel Planning & Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing tonight on an application by The Boss LLC & The Grand at Bethel  for plans on Greenwood Avenue and Grand Street.  A special permit is being sought for shared use parking behind Dolan Plaza for a second proposed apartment building.  The meeting is at 7pm in the municipal center.

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Jury begins deliberations in human trafficking trial

DANBURY, Conn. (AP) A six-member jury has begun deliberations in the trial of a Connecticut businessman charged in connection with what prosecutors say was a human trafficking ring that preyed on mentally ill and intellectually disabled boys and young men.

Jurors in Danbury Superior Court heard closing arguments Monday in the trial of 65-year-old Bruce Bemer, of Glastonbury, and began deliberating later in the day. Discussions are scheduled to continue Tuesday.

Prosecutor Sharmese Hodge told the jury that co-defendant Robert King found the victims at drug rehabs, group homes and other places and brought them to Bemer for sex acts. King has pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing.

Bemer, the owner of the New London-Waterford Speedbowl racetrack, has admitted he patronized prostitutes. But his lawyer, Anthony Spinella, denied there was any human trafficking.

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Gun-maker to ask Supreme Court to hear Sandy Hook appeal

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) The maker of the rifle used in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting intends to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its appeal of a Connecticut court ruling that reinstated a wrongful death lawsuit against the company that had been filed by victims' relatives.

Court documents filed Friday show that Remington notified the Connecticut Supreme Court of its plans to pursue an appeal with the nation's highest court.

The gunman used a Bushmaster semiautomatic rifle to kill 20 first-graders and six educators in Newtown in 2012. A survivor and relatives of nine victims sued the Madison, North Carolina, gun-maker.

A lower Connecticut court dismissed the lawsuit. The state Supreme Court ruled last month that Remington can be sued over how it marketed the rifle to the public.

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Friendly's restaurants closes 23 more shops

WILBRAHAM, Mass. (AP) The Friendly's ice cream and restaurant chain has closed 23 more restaurants around the Northeast.

The Wilbraham, Massachusetts-based company cited dramatic changes in the areas where some restaurants are located for the closures of the corporate-owned shops.

The chain is closing 14 restaurants in upstate New York, three in Massachusetts, three in Connecticut, two in New Hampshire, and one in Maine.  The closures include the Danbury and Southbury locations.

CEO George Michel says employees at the restaurants being closed will be offered jobs at other Friendly's locations or offered severance.

Michel says the closures ``will best position the brand for a bright future.''

Friendly's now has 174 restaurants 77 corporate-owned and 97 franchisee-owned down from 254 when the company emerged from bankruptcy in 2012.

The chain started with a single store in Springfield in 1935.

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Bethel officials approve street closure, municipal lawn sue for Open House CT Day

The Bethel Board of Selectmen has approve the closure of School Street and use of the Municipal Lawn on June 8th in celebration of Connecticut Open House Day.  Selectman Rich Straiton requested that all businesses be made aware of the closure.  The annual event is a time for cultural organizations and tourism attractions throughout the state to open their doors so residents can experience art, history, film and tourism through a variety of incentives.  Its coordinated by the Connecticut Office of Tourism.

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New Fairfield Board of Selectmen appoint new rep for Candlewood Lake Authority

The New Fairfield Board of Selectmen has vote to appoint a new representative to the Candlewood Lake Authority.  John Hodge, former First Selectman, had been the longtime delegate and will be replaced by Inlands Wetlands Commission member Joan Archer.  The board voted 2-to-1 for the change.  Hodge has been critical of the funding sent to the CLA and how the contribution was used.  The change in representation comes as First Light Power, owner of the lake, is submitting a new Shoreline Management Plan to federal regulators for approval. 

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Danbury man with shotgun, 'murder manifesto'arrested in NY

A Danbury man with what the Putnam County Sheriff's Office called a "Murder Manifesto" has been arrested. 

On March 18th, a Sergeant spotted a vehicle being driven erratically on Route 301 in Carmel and made a traffic stop.  A strong odor of alcohol and marijuana was coming from the car.  31-year old Nickolai Plastini was allegedly determined to be intoxicated. 

He was found in possession of marijuana, a .410 Gauge Shotgun, .410 Gauge Shotgun Shells, and a notebook appearing to be a “manifesto” of his intent to kill people and the reasons why. The notebook contained a list of people’s names that had apparently “wronged” Plastini.  

He was charged with Criminal Possession of a Weapon, Driving While Intoxicated, Aggravated Unlicensed Operation and Unlawful Possession of Marijuana. He was arraigned and is due in court on April 23rd.

The individuals listed in the notebook were contacted by the Sheriff’s Department and advised of the “Manifesto”.

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Insulation contractor branch manager pleads guilty to bid rigging, fraud

A Bethlehem man has pleaded guilty to his role in schemes to rig bids and engage in fraud on insulation installation contracts.  The Department of Justice says the conviction of Gary DeVoe is the first in the investigation.  Authorities say DeVoe participated in a long-running conspiracy among insulation contractors in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New York. 

He has agreed to pay restitution.  The antitrust charge carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a fine of $1 million.  The fraud conspiracy charge carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of $250,000. 

U.S. Attorney for Connecticut John Durham says they cooked up collusive bids, shared bid numbers with their competitors and communicated over encrypted messaging apps, in an effort to line their own pockets and their companies’ bottom lines.  Durham says the real victims are the hospitals, universities and businesses that were duped into paying corruptly inflated bids on $45 million worth of insulation jobs throughout New England. 

DeVoe also agreed to resolve civil forfeiture cases connected to the criminal charges.  DeVoe agreed to settle the pending forfeiture action on his home for $131,000 and to forfeit all of his seized bank accounts.

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Former DHS safety advocate granted accelerated rehabilitation

A former Danbury High School safety advocate will have charges against her dismissed if she successfully completes an accelerated rehabilitation program.  The court granted 50-year old Sueanna Lamontagne permission to enter the diversionary, pretrial intervention program at Danbury Superior Court on Monday. 

She was charged with breach of peace, disorderly conduct, interfering with an officer and felony assault of public safety or emergency medical personnel in February.  Police responded to calls of a car obstructing traffic on Forty Acre Mountain Road and determined that Lamontagne, who was in the passenger seat, was intoxicated.  A driver was never found.  She allegedly repeatedly punched an officer in the face with a closed fist as he tried to unbuckle her so the car could be towed. 

Lamontagne was ordered to enter a substance and/or alcohol abuse treatment program, perform 25 hours of community service, and go to private counseling.

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Sandy Hook Promise receives FBI Director's Community Leadership Award

Newtown-based Sandy Hook Promise has received the FBI Director’s Community Leadership Award.  The recognition was presented at the nonprofit’s Church Hill Road headquarters yesterday.  The organization was founded by family members who lost loved ones on 12-14.  They've launched successful program to teach schools and communities the warning signs of violent behavior and how to prevent it, including their Know the Sings initiative.  This is Sandy Hook Promise’s annual National Youth Violence Prevention Week.

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Absentee ballots available in Newtown for upcoming referendum

Absentee ballots are now available in the Newtown Town Clerk's office for an upcoming Referendum.  The Town Clerk’s office will have Special Absentee Voting Hours Saturday, April 20th from 9am to noon.  The referendum is scheduled for April 23rd in the Newtown Middle School Gym. 

Residents will be asked several questions about appropriations, including $1 million for road paving. 

Another question seeks approval of $290,000 for the design and constriction of Fairfield Hills Pickleball Courts.  It will be offset by a $25,000 donation for the 4 courts.   The project anticipates four new pickleball courts with lighting infrastructure for the future addition of lighting, and surrounding landscaping. Courts will be fully fenced and offer residents the opportunity to participate in this activity.  Site work will be completed by Parks and Recreation. Parking, which will be 20 lined spaces, currently exists behind Cochran House.  Support features such as a pavilion and bathrooms already exist or will be a component of the Community Center project. 

$783,000 is being sought to replace a boiler and retrofit lighting at Hawley School.  Newtown officials want to put in a higher efficiency gas fired hot water system into the 1921 section of Hawley School.  It includes a conversion from oil to natural gas. Demolition, abatement and tank removal is also planned. All existing lighting to be replaced from fluorescent to LED bulbs.

$2.7 million would go to the same projects at Newtown High School.  The current boilers at the High School are over 49 years old. 

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Update on Streetscape project in Brookfield given to Selectmen

The Brookfield Board of Selectmen recently got an update on the Four Corners Streetscape work.  Project Manager Greg Dembowski says Phase 3 construction is expected to start in about a month.  All of the funding is already in place.  What's unique about this part of the work is that it includes a pocket park, in addition to the sidewalk and lighting installation.  There will also be another crosswalk to the Still River Greenway.

Phase 4 would be the final portion of the project.  It would go from Agora restaurant and running to the Enclave project, and eventually ending at Newbury Village. 

Three underground utility crossings were installed during Phases 1 and 2.  Dembowski says if town officials ever want to eliminate utility poles on the opposite side of the main backbone, north and south, the conduit is already in place.

There's a small complication with Phase 4 designs though.  Dembowski has been in talks with the developer of the Enclave project.  For the sketch to work as designed, they also need to work with the state.  The Enclave project includes a sidewalk, but there's a lot of ledge and it's 16 feet above elevation.  The developer wants to have the project done by next year.  He offered to install the sidewalk for the portion of Phase 4 running by the property, if the right-of-way is granted. 

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Former Bethel Board of Ed chairman passes away at 77

Former Bethel Board of Education Chairman Larry Craybas has passed away.  He was recently diagnosed with Leukemia and was being treated at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.  He passed away Saturday at the age of 77.  Craybas served a decade on the Board of Ed, was on the Board of Directors of the Bethel Visiting Nurses Association for three years and was a Community Emergency Response Volunteer for the Health Department.  Craybas was also a a Certified Fire Policeman.

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Hearing in New Milford tonight on blight ordinance, building committee creation

There is a public hearing in New Milford tonight on a proposed blight ordinance.  Resident will also be able to weigh in on creating a permanent municipal building committee.  The New Milford Town Council will then vote on the proposals.  The definition of blight would go beyond the structure, to cover the entire property.  Building, health and zoning officials along with the fire marshal, health and police were part of a panel looking into the matter.  A municipal building committee would be formed to oversee large construction and renovation projects by the town to keep them on budget and on time.  Tonight's hearing is at 6:15 and will be followed by the Town Council meeting at 7pm in Town Hall.

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Eagle Scout seeks to improve house numbering in Sherman to help first responders

An Eagle Scout in Sherman is working on a house numbering project.  The goal is to make it easier to find the locations of emergencies for First Responders.  The project includes increasing awareness and compliance with the Sherman House Numbering Ordinance.  The Sherman Volunteer Fire Department touted the work saying that when someone calls 911, one of the most crucial pieces of information is the location of the emergency.  Fire officials say having the house number displayed properly can save valuable time in an emergency.  Patrick Dwyer will be taking orders for house numbers, will deliver them, and help install them. The goal is to complete the project by the summer.

 

 

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Work begins on Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary property

Phase one of construction is beginning to take place on the Catherine Violet Hubbard Animal Sanctuary.  The Old Farm Road property is getting a retaining wall, which doubles as a native butterfly garden. The foundation, dedicated to a girl killed on 12-14, is working with Planters Choice to create a minimal carbon footprint for the production of all the plant species by ensuring they are locally sourced.  Partnerships with the Connecticut Butterfly Association, Monarch Watch and Mission Monarch means the garden, to be named Monarch Waystation, will be considered a Monarch Sanctuary.  Erosion control measures on the property are also under way.  Phase one is expected to be completed this summer.

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Ridgefield Police investigating who poured gas on field, set it on fire to dry baseball diamond

Ridgefield police continue to investigate who dumped 24 gallons of gasoline on the field that Ridgefield High School uses, and set the field on fire. The home field at Governor Park was soggy when baseball teams started to arrive Saturday, and someone decided to try to dry the field quicker. Ridgefield officials called it a poor decision and police are looking into the matter. 

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection was called to the scene and crews have excavated the impacted area.  The contaminated dirt from the clay in field was placed in a secure container and clean soil will be put onto the field.  The gasoline didn't spread to the grass area.

There were reportedly dozens of witnesses, some take cell phone video of the incident.  Several games this week will be moved to the opponent's fields because of the clean up.

A social studies teacher from Amity Middle School in Bethany posted a video of the incident to Twitter.

 

First Selectman Rudy Marconi told the Ridgefield Press that the estimated clean up cost is at least $50,000. 

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Vehicle hits poles, fence, stone walls trapping passenger

Two people were injured in Danbury when a car crashed into two stone walls.  Police, firefighters and EMS responded to West Street near Pleasant Street early Saturday morning and found one occupant out of the vehicle, the other trapped. 

The small convertible also struck a telephone pole, a wooden fence, a mailbox, a sign, a steel pole, and came to rest against a small tree near a house. 

Using the Hurst Jaws of Life, firefighters removed the passenger door and disentangled the victim’s legs from the crushed floorboard.  The front tire was impaled into the floorboard, challenging the rescue.  Both the driver and passenger were transported to the hospital. 

(Photo: DFD)

The driver, identified as 22-year-old Liony Cordova of Danbury, was cited for driving too fast for conditions.

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Overturned truck closed Route 39 in New Fairfield for hours

An overturned truck on Route 39 in New Fairfield closed the road for several hours yesterday.  New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department responded to the area of Icons around 8am.  There were no injuries reported.  There was an oil spill coming from hydraulic system of the truck. Rescue 3 was used for traffic control on Route 39 near Fleetwood Drive. the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection responded to the scene as well.  Two heavy wreckers were called on to upright the vehicle.

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Newtown divers respond to Woodbury on a report of a car in a pond

Newtown Underwater Search & Rescue provided mutual aid to Woodbury Fire Department yesterday when a car went into a pond.  Early reports yesterday were that there were possibly missing victims.  Two divers did sweeps in cold water with low visibility.  Everybody was accounted for and safe..  The accident happened on Middle Road Turnpike.  The two-door Saab was partly in the water.

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DPH consent order on Bethel water system lifted

The state Department of Public Health now considers a Consent Order against the Town of Bethel closed.  Bethel entered into an agreement with the agency in July 2016 to correct water system deficiencies.  The town has now completed all of the requirements outlined in the consent order.  Among the issues was excessive amounts of trihalomethane in the Chestnut Ridge Reservoir.  The disinfection byproducts was found in some monitoring over two years. 

New wells on Maple Avenue mean the reservoir is basically a back-up source.  Trihalomethane levels have stayed within legal limits since the town was put under the consent order. 

Other work included an upgrade to the Hoyts Hill pump station and construction of the 750,000-gallon Eureka Lake water tank in Danbury.

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Local lawmaker questions practicality of distracted walking fines

The General Assembly is considering a bill that would make distracted walking a fineable offense.  Senator Tony Hwang, whose district includes Newtown, questioned if lawmakers were trying to legislate what should be common sense. He added that there are, rightfully, distracted driving laws but that the state doesn't do enough to enforce them.

He also questioned how practical it is for the state to enforce the distracted walking proposal.  Pedestrians would first receive a warning and then be subject to a $20 fine for subsequent offenses. 

No other state has such a law, but some cities like Honolulu do have distracted walking ordinances. 

Proponents of the measure to crack down on people crossing the street while looking at a cellphone say it's about trying to protect the person who should be aware when they’re putting themselves at risk.  Advocates of the proposal say a small fine could help people recognize that they have that obligation to use common sense.

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Danbury officials to redact Social Security Numbers from land records

Over the past three years efforts have ramped up in Danbury to preserve historic land records and the Town Clerk's office has been able to improve electronic accessibility.  Town Clerk Jan Giegler says they've been working to make the records accessible to the public, without them having to go to City Hall.  Title searchers, attorneys, banks and residents currently have online access to the land record index through the City's website, but not the actual documents referenced. 

More than $130,000 from the Historic Document Reserve Account will be used to complete the redaction of all Social Security numbers.  Giegler says, right now, it's over 2 million pages that have to be scanned and redacted.  In 1936, Social Security numbers were added to certain documents, but blossomed when mortgages and IRS liens added them in the 80s.  Even death certificates include the sensitive information. 

The office has already digitized records dating back to 1777 and they encourage people to go online instead of having to use the books in order to protect the historical documents.

Documents used to be $1 per page, and a check is needed, because the office doesn't have a credit card system.  The allocation will leave the fund with just about $2,000.  The office is now charging $2 dollars per page, which will replenish the fund.

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3.5 percent sewer rate increase proposed in Danbury budget

There is a 3.5 percent increase in Danbury's sewer rates proposed in the budget for the coming fiscal year.  Mayor Mark Boughton says that will help to start pay for the state-mandated work at the sewer plant.  Boughton says that money could begin paying back loans once construction is started.  He says it's easier to do it this way than to hit people all at once with a big increase in order to pay for the state-mandated work at the sewer plant.  Danbury residents signed off on a more than $102 million appropriation in November for the needed upgrades.

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Residential brush yard in Brookfield opens for the season

The residential brush yard in Brookfield will open for the season on Saturday, April 6, and will be open every Saturday from 8:30am to 4pm through December 7th, excluding the following holiday weekends; April 20, May 25, July 6, August 31 and November 30. Permits are available at the site and at the Brookfield Department of Public Works office at Town Hall.  A valid ID showing Brookfield residency is required. The yard is located on Pocono Road behind the Fire House.

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Kent Parks & Rec looking to hire lifeguards for summer season

Kent Park and Recreation is accepting applications for certified seasonal lifeguards to work at Emery Park during the summer.  Town officials tout it as a congenial work environment, that the job offers a flexible schedule, and a paid shift regardless of weather. Application available online.

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Money included in proposed Danbury budget to rebuild DHS track

There's money included in the proposed Danbury budget for the coming fiscal year to rebuild the track at Danbury High School.  The project was put off last year as the school underwent a massive renovation and expansion.  Many of the residents speaking at Tuesday's City Council meeting advocated for the upgrade, noting that many meets, practice sessions and competitions are not being held this spring because the condition deteriorated to the point where the track is not useable.  Mayor Mark Boughton says he understands their frustrations, but noted that they might have needed the property for the new annex.  He believes the bigger priority was getting kids in classrooms.  Boughton added that they're not happy students will not be able to use it this season, but that City crews are working to make sure it's ready for next season. 

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Restoration work on Uncle Sam statue progresses

Danbury Public Works crews paid a visit to Uncle Sam last month to try and figure out a way to structurally support the statue when he is eventually put in place.  The Danbury Fair memorabilia, recently purchased by the City, is currently being restored to its former glory in Harwinton.  As the paint came off, officials said it was evident that the tallest Uncle Sam statue in the world has fallen and been repaired at least 5 times.


  

(Photos: Department Public Works Instagram)

Mayor Mark Boughton posted a photo yesterday of the repainted fiberglass statue, and said a fantastic job was done on the restoration.  He has been in discussions with the Governor's office about putting it up at the Exit 2 Welcome Center and rest area. 

(Photo: Mark Boughton)

No alternate location has been publicly identified.

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Danbury Westerners donate netting to City for baseline safety at Rogers Park

The Danbury Westerners have donated netting to the City to be put up at their baseball field at Rogers Park.  In an effort to ensure the safety of spectators, the team is buying the equipment for the first and third base sides of the field, along the fence line.  The value of the donation is $2,500.  It was unanimously accepted by the City Council.

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Area police departments to participate in Polar Plunge this weekend to benefit Special Olympics

The Newtown and Monroe Police Departments and Special Olympics Connecticut’s 9th annual “Plunge at the Park”  fundraising effort takes place tomorrow.  The money raised will provide life-changing programs all year long that affect more than 60,000 children and adults with intellectual disabilities all throughout Connecticut.  To date, the Plunge has raised over $148,000.  The Plunge at the Park takes place at Great Hollow Lake in Wolfe Park in Monroe at 11am.  Among the participants will be students, parents, civic groups, law enforcement, fire and rescue personnel, and town officials wearing costumes and bathing suits to “take the plunge” to support our communities’ athletes.  Officer John McAulay and K-9 Murphy and their canine performance, as well as Capt. Al Wilcoxson and his Eagle II Helicopter will be among the features of the event.

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Congress approves renewal of Violence Against Women Act

Local members of Congress have voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act.  5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes says it would expand measures designed to protect victims of intimate partner violence.  4th District Congressman Jim Himes says women are 5 times more likely to be killed if their abuser owns a gun.  He notes that the NRA opposed this bill because it assures domestic abusers can’t access firearms.  The measure first became law in 1994 and has been reauthorized by Congress approximately every five years since.  The vote yesterday was 263 to 158, with 1 member voting Present.

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Himes introduces measure to set up violence warning hotline, app

The Safe to Tell Act has been introduced by 4th District Congressman Jim Himes and creates a grant program for states to develop systems, such as telephone hotlines, mobile apps or websites, that allow people to anonymously report potential threats to schools.  Himes says too often in the wake of a school shooting, there were warning signs that went unreported --sometimes because they didn't know how or where to report it.  The Safe to Tell Act creates ways for people to share their concerns of potential threats and educates the public and law enforcement on how to report.  Earlier warning and better reporting will save lives.”

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Teacher pension costs likely won't be shifted to towns this year

The Connecticut legislature's Education Committee has taken language out of the proposed state budget which would have required local municipalities to pay for part of teacher pensions.  Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi told the Ridgefield Press that the he is relieved it's been removed this year, but expects it to be an issue again.  Estimates are that paying for part of the obligation would have cost Ridgefield 470-thousand dollars in the first year, 970-thousand the second year, and 1-point-4 million in the third year.

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Danbury Mayor proposes train service to NY, bike share program for Main Street

During a budget presentation to the Danbury City Council this week, Mayor Mark Boughton unveiled some new initiatives for the coming fiscal year.  He wants to bring a bike sharing program to the Main Street corridor.  If implemented, people would be able to rent a bike, similar to the Citibike program in New York City. 

Boughton also announced plans to connect the Danbury train station to the Southeast train station so people can do direct to New York, cutting an hour off the trip.  Riders will be able to avoid having to go down to Stamford or switch at South Norwalk. 

He envisions both a shuttle train to connect to existing Harlem line timetables and direct service using the same tracks as the Harlem line trains.

He called the plan transformative for downtown and believes it will lead to a robust CityCenter.  Boughton noted that 1,200 people a day take HART shuttles or park at Southeast and this will get drivers off I-84, easing congestion. The MTA is working with the City and state to partially fund a study on using the old Maybrook line behind the mall. 

The track is owned by freight operator Housatonic Railroad, not the state.

The Maybrook line began in 1871, 30 miles west of Poughkeepsie and went to Hartford. In 1892, a connection was built allowing through service from Danbury to Maybrook.  Passenger service was provided on and off until it was turned into a freight line.  In 1993, the track was sold to Maybrook Properties and most freight service ended.

Boughton says this is no longer a pipe dream with positive feedback finally coming form the MTA.  He added that this plan would require $50 million to $70 million in funding and will take time with all of the needed upgrades. 

Boughton is also proposing more police patrols downtown between Memorial Day and Labor Day and included funds in the budget to finish the long-delayed animal shelter project.

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Police seek ID of woman who allegedly broke into car, used stolen credit card

A vehicle was burglarized at a business in the area of Backus and Kenosia avenues around 7 o'clock last night.  Danbury Police say a credit card taken from the vehicle was later used at a business on Newtown Road.  The Danbury Police Department is asking for the public's help in identifying a woman wanted for questioning in connection to the crime.  The blonde suspect was caught in surveillance footage and Police have posted the photos to their Facebook page.  Anyone with information about her identity is asked to contact the Danbury Police Department.

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Fires extinguished in Bethel, New Fairfield Thursday

There was a chimney fire in downtown Bethel last night.  Bethel Fire & EMS responded to Greenwood Avenue and found flames shooting from the chimney opening.  Crews quickly knocked down the bulk of the flames but remained on scene for an extensive time as the chimney was severely clogged with creosote. Stony Hill Volunteer Fire Company provided mutual aid.  Officials says chimneys should be cleaned and inspected professionally at least once a year to prevent these types of fires. 

In New Fairfield, crews responded to a structure fire on Route 39 yesterday afternoon.  Thick smoke was seen coming from the house as firefighters arrived shortly before 2pm.  Firefighters were on scene for little more than two hours.  Sherman and Danbury provided mutual aid.  Police controlled traffic on Route 39 during the response. 

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Danbury to name Open Space land after former property owner

Danbury officials want to give a name to a parcel of land purchased by the City for open space.  Wiedel Meadows would be named in honor of the land's former owners, Monique and Philip Wiedel.  Monique dedicated her life to conservation issues and was an advocate for open space initiatives in Danbury.  The 65 acres off Long Ridge Road, near Tarrywile Park, is currently being improved for public access and open space use.  It's protected by a conservation easement.  Danbury paid $700,000, out of the conservation fund, for the property, which is valued at $1.2 million.  The land features an old orchard, meadows and woods.  City officials hope to eventually connect the parcel to the Ives Trail, a 20-mile path spanning Ridgefield, Redding, Bethel and Danbury. 

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Brookfield schools applying for state reimbursement on Huckleberry Hill project

Brookfield school officials are putting together an application for state reimbursement on eligible costs of the recently approved Huckleberry Hill Elementary School project.  The Board of Education is seeking a grant to cover 22.5 percent of eligible costs on the $78.1 million project.  That would bring the anticipated cost down to $63.3 million. 

The application is due June 30th and the legislature would decide when they reconvene next year. 

The Superintendent believes there's a good chance of being awarded the grant since the project would eliminate one of the town's existing schools, which fits with state goals of finding efficiencies.  The project includes tearing down the current Huckleberry School, constructing a new building on that campus for pre-k through 5th graders and moving Center Elementary students into the facility as well.  Center School would then be turned over to the town.

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Bethel continues flood, icing mitigation work on Taylor Ave

The Bethel Highway Department is repairing and paving a portion of Taylor Avenue today.  Work started yesterday to fix flooding problems, which led to severe icing this winter.  For several days in January the school district rerouted buses because of the situation.  The road is closed to through traffic from 8am to 4:30pm between house number 48 and 54.  Alternative bus stops were set up.  Residents living in the project area will still have access to their homes.  Drivers are urged to proceed carefully and were cautioned that there could be short delays. 

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Red Flag warning issued in Connecticut

Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company responded to two small fire incidents yesterday that were handled quickly, but there were several other wind-driven fires in the state that were difficult to contain.  The National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for Connecticut. This means the weather outside shows for critical fire conditions. 

Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company says burn permits which have been issued by the Fire Marshal are not valid today.  Residents should avoid using outdoor appliances that may cause a spark or generate enough heat for combustion.  Forecasted gusts can blow embers into the grass so cigarettes and matches should be properly disposed of.  Anyone cooking outside today should have immediate access to water nearby and refrain from disposing charcoals until after the warning has been lifted.

The Red Flag Warning for this area is until 8pm.

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Danbury named one of 'Best Communities for Music Education'

The Danbury Public Schools district has been named a 2019 “Best Communities for Music Education School District”.  Danbury was one of 18 school districts in Connecticut, and 623 nationwide, to be recognized by the  National Association of Music Merchants.  The City was selected for its commitment to and support of music education. 

The nonprofit foundation advances active participation in music making across the lifespan by supporting scientific research, philanthropic giving and public service programs. 

Last fall, the Redding-based SpreadMusicNow presented a $40,000 check to VH1 Save the Music Foundation to support the donation of musical instruments to the Danbury schools. VH1Save the Music donated $120,000 worth of musical instruments and supplies to support the elementary band programs at Ellsworth, Hayestown Avenue and Stadley Rough elementary schools. NAMM donated $20,000 to the foundation, as well. 

Superintendent Dr. Sal Pascarella says the benefit of music education is immeasurable, from the joy it brings to students playing an instrument to the confidence it builds and the skills it promotes.

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Absentee ballots available in Bethel for April 11 budget referendum

Absentee Ballots are now available in the Bethel Town Clerk's Office for the April 11th Budget Referendum.  The law prohibits the mailing of ballots, so residents not able to come into the office must fill out an application and nominate a designee to pick up the ballot and deliver it back to the Town Clerk. A sample ballot has been posted to the town's website.  Applications are also available online.

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New Fire Marshal takes oath of office in Danbury

A new fire marshal has been sworn in in Danbury.  During the City Council meeting on Tuesday, members voted unanimously to confirm Firefighter Tim Smith to the position.  He joined the career fire department in 1999 and is certified as a Fire Service Instructor and an Incident Safety Instructor. 

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State bond money approved for Danbury, Newtown

Governor Ned Lamont, chair of the state Bond Commission, announced at the start of his term that he would be putting Connecticut on a so-called debt diet.  As part of that plan, he canceled the first several months worth of meetings, holding the first gathering on Tuesday. 

Among the items approved by the Commission was funding for bridge work in Danbury.  Little more than $1 million will be used for the Triangle Street and Crosby Street Connector over the Still River. 

Grants-in-Aid were also approved for police departments to purchase body-worn recording equipment and digital data storage devices.  The Newtown Police Department is receiving $69,434 for this purpose.

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Meeting tonight in Brookfield about grant for Still River Greenway extension

A special town meeting is being held in Brookfield tonight. 

The town has been granted $207,000 to extend the Still River Greenway.  The additional 2,500 feet will connect the trail to an existing 25-car parking lot at the firehouse on Pocono Road.  The campus also includes the senior center, post office and multiple playing fields and venue for the Farmer's Market, Summer Concerts and other community events.  

The 8 foot wide trail would allow handicapped residents to easily attend town concerts at the bandstand.  

The state funding comes from the Community Connectivity Program.  First Selectman Steve Dunn says the application for funding was initially rejected, but the State Bond Commission approved additional money for projects. 

Brookfield residents will also be discussing $3.5 million in capital expenses.  The funding includes replacement of certain dump trucks for the Department of Public Works, the Bobcat Toolcat Utility Work vehicle for the Department of Parks and Recreation and the fire pumper truck for the Candlewood Fire Company.  Funding would also be put toward replacement of the roof over the truck bays at the Center Fire Company; replacements of data center hardware for the Police Department and acquisition and installation of Town and Police unified printing systems. 

Road paving, a new HVAC control system for the high school and parking lot, driveway and sidewalk paving, along with replacement of the fire pump generator and parking lot, driveway and sidewalk paving at Whisconier Middle School round out the Capital Improvements Projects.

The meeting is at 7pm.

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3 Danbury Police K9s receive donation of bullet protective vests from Ohio 3rd grader

A 3rd grader from Ohio started a nonprofit called Brady's K9 Fund. 

Brady Snakosky has donated money to the Danbury Police Department to outfit K9s Gunner, Cael and Dirk with state of the art ballistic and stab proof vests.  He believes that all K9 officers should have full protection like their handers.  Danbury Police Chief Patrick Ridenhour says Brady hopes to one day become a police K9 handler. 

The vests are manufactured by Line of Fire Defence Systems.  Ridenhour says this will allow the dogs to better serve the community.  The City Council accepted the donation Tuesday and sent a letter of thanks and praise to Brady.

(Photo: k9gunnerdpd Instagram)

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Shed fire in New Fairfield injures one

A possible house fire reported in New Fairfield last night turned out to be a fully involved shed fire.  New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department responded to Silver Hill Road after receiving multiple calls. Due to high winds, firefighters had to contend with exposure to the home and the possibility of brush fires starting from flying embers. The fire was brought under control in a matter of minutes, but 1 injury was reported.

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Longtime Kent resident ordered deported to Mexico

A longtime Kent resident is being deported to Mexico.  A federal judge yesterday rejected a bid by Constantino Santiago to stay in the United States.  The Newstimes reports that the popular handyman and line cook at Kingsley Tavern will leave behind a wife and three sons, ranging in age from 7 to 19 years old.  Santiago, who illegally entered the U-S in 1998, has a month to appeal. The judge acknowledged that it would be a hardship for the family to move to Mexico, but gave more weight to the fact that the 43-year old didn't attended AA meetings after a 2016 drunken-driving arrest in New York, in which his wife and kids were in the car.  He was also arrested for DUI in 2008, and charged in Connecticut in 2015 with disorderly conduct for an alcohol-fueled argument with his teen son.  The children have varying degrees of autism.

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Merger of WCHN, Health Quest approved

Danbury, New Milford and Norwalk hospitals are part of a new health network.  A $2.4 billion merger has been approved for Western Connecticut Health Network and Health Quest, which runs a 4-hospital group in New York.  The combined network, to be called Nuvance Health, will service about 1.5 million patients, employ 12,000 people and includes 2,600 physicians.  The name Nuvance, is a combination of NEW and ADVANCE.  Dr. John Murphy is the CEO of the new health system, and Robert Friedberg is its President.  The board of directors includes equal representation from both old health networks.

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Two serious car accidents within minutes in Danbury

There were two unrelated serious car accident in Danbury early yesterday afternoon, within minutes of each other. 

First responders were called to Sugar Hollow Road around 11:30am on a report of a car off the roadway and in a ditch on Route 7.  The The driver reported cuts on her face from glass breaking.  The vehicle struck a guy wire on a pole, but the pole was still intact, near the Wooster Mountain Shooting Range. 

Around 11:45am, a pickup truck that crashed into a utility pole on Southern Boulevard.  A utility pole near Immaculate High School cracked as a result of the accident and needed immediate attention.  Some injuries were reported.

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Area police step up patrols during Distracted Driving Awareness Month

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month.  Bethel Police Department is among the law enforcement agencies stepping up patrols to enforce distracted driving laws, especially near areas where bus stops are located. 

Between 2012 and 2017, nearly 20,000 people died in crashes involving a distracted driver and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there were 3,166 people killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers in 2017 alone. 

Wilton Police will also be out conducting high visibility enforcement of distracted driving laws.  Drivers who are ticketed are fined $150 for the first offense, $300 for the second offense, and $500 for the third and subsequent offenses.

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New Milford Police raising awareness of Donate Life Month

April is National Donate Life Month and is a time when people are encouraged to register as organ, eye and tissue donors.  Those who have saved lives through the gift of donation are also celebrated this month.  The New Milford Police Department is helping to raise awareness by displaying a Donate Life Flag in front of the Police Department along with wearing Donate Life Pins on our uniforms during the month of April.  A single organ donor may save up to eight people and a single tissue donor may enhance the lives of up to 50 people.  More than 118,000 people currently are waiting for an organ transplant. Thousands more are in need of tissue and corneal transplants.

 

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Kent family lost home, dog in weekend fire

Kent Volunteer Fire Department and mutual aid companies responded to a structure fire Sunday afternoon.  The Coolbeth family's home was a total loss and they escaped the blaze with only the clothes they were wearing. Their dog, Rhino, perished in the fire.  A GoFundMe page was set set up to help the family, and in one day raised more than $16,000 of the $25,000 goal.  Kent Center School is collecting gift cards, while neighbors can also sign up for a program called Mealtrain where a meal can be made and dropped off.

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Mill rate held flat in proposed Danbury budget

A no property tax increase plan is being proposed for the coming fiscal year in Danbury.  Mayor Mark Boughton said during a presentation to the City Council last night that families with multiple vehicles may actually see a property tax cut because existing vehicles will have a lower assessment values.  Boughton says the $261.5 million plan is measured and thoughtful, addressing the needs of the community.  There's $4.5 million included in the plan for paving.

He says the budget drivers include retiree medical payments, pension contributions, wages and benefits, and school spending.  There will be $5.1 million more in the education budget.  School spending makes up little more than half the City budget.  For the first time, a student impact free of $550,000 from a development at the Matrix property owner will go directly to the Board of Ed.

As for public safety, the vehicle rollover plan for the Police Department will continue, along with Taser replacements.  On the fire side, a safety officer will be on duty 24-7 to alleviate some call volume with bigger equipment freed up.  $2.2 million is included in the plan to rebuild the runways at the airport.  The City will be purchasing a rescue vessel for Candlewood Lake, which police and fire will have access to.  Boughton says they learned during macroburst that when trees are down, sometimes the easiest way to get into communities is via the lake.

Boughton further explained the spending in the budget.  About 4.1 percent of every taxpayer dollar goes to public works, the same percentage goes to general government operations.  1.2 percent is for culture and recreational and .1 percent for contingency fund.  Debt service--to replace boilers, roofs and building expansions is 6.4 percent.,  Pensions and other benefits equal 15.6 percent.  Public Safety is 14.4 percent.  Some funding goes to capital projects, the contingency account and other areas.  The balance, 51.6 percent, is educational spending.

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Renovation work underway at Rockwell, Johnson schools in Bethel

The renovate-as-new projects for Johnson and Rockwell schools in Bethel  started this week.  Updated phasing plans are included on the school's website. 

Between now until the end of the summer, people can expect tree clearing to the right of the current Rockwell playground and behind the school.  Blasting will be done, after school hours, to partially remove the hillside behind Rockwell.  The playground will be removed and fencing put up around the construction area.  An underground tank will be removed and loading docks will be relocated.  Portable classrooms, with utilities, will be installed.  A new rear staircase and elevator will be installed.  The front parking lot will also be raised up. 

At Johnson school, there will be some partial tree removal, a service road around the entire building and gym demolition and construction.  The new addition of the 5th grade wing, including STEM room and media center, will start. 

This summer, the two buildings will go through environmental abatement.   

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New law in NY on type of smoke detectors allowed for sale

A new law will affect the types of smoke detectors on sale in New York.  Brewster firefighters are alerting residents that as of April 1st, all new or replacement smoke detectors sold in New York must either be powered by a non-removable battery good for at least 10 years or be made to be hard-wired to buildings.  State officials say these types of smoke detectors can be safer because they do not require periodic battery replacements, reducing the chances of human error.  The law does not require the replacement of any existing smoke detectors powered by replaceable, removable batteries.

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Ridgefield PBA, Police Department to raise awareness of Autism Spectrum Disorders

The Ridgefield Police Benevolent Association, with the support of the Ridgefield Police Department, is partnering with Christopher's Voice during the month of April to raise awareness, funding, and support for families affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders.  Christopher's Voice is a charitable foundation created by a New Rochelle Police Detective, Christopher Greco, to help prevent wandering of autistic children, to provide financial assistance and support to struggling families with autistic children and to promote public awareness and safety within the first responder community.  The Ridgefield PBA, has donated to the organization and will be displaying Autism Awareness patches on police vehicles throughout the month. The PBA will receive "go bags" filled with items to help during interactions with persons with Autism.

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Annual hydrant flushing begins in Danbury

The City of Danbury Water Department will be flushing fire hydrants beginning today.  The entire process will be completed in about nine weeks.  Fire officials say annual flushing of the hydrants is necessary to provide better quality water and fire protection.  Water customers may experience fluctuations in pressure and/or discoloration of their water during flushing.  If that happens, the cold water tap should be left on until it runs clears.  During periods of discoloration, postpone washing clothes and limit your use of hot water until the cold water clears.The City's website includes an updated list of streets to be flushed in a given week.

 

 

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Teen fell from tree in Redding park

An 18-year old fell out of a tree in Topstone Park in Redding yesterday afternoon.  The Connecticut Post reports that emergency personnel were called to the park around 2:30.  The teen was unconscious but breathing when first responders located him half way around the pond in a wooded area.  A utility task vehicle was deployed to the site in the 280-acre park.  The published report says that the man regained consciousness and he reported no neck or back injuries.

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Local lawmaker backs bill extending statute of limitations for sex assault suits

A local lawmaker is supporting a proposal which was up for a public hearing on Monday.  Danbury state Senator Julie Kushner spoke in favor of the bill combating sexual assault, extending the time limits people have to file lawsuits.  Compared to other states, Connecticut’s statute of limitations for rape -- five years -- is one of the shortest in the country. 25 other states have no statute of limitations for rape, and 20 states have a limit longer than Connecticut’s.  Under the proposal, there would be no time limit in Class B and C felony sexual assault like forced rape, rape by drugs, and up to 25 years in cases like forced sexual contact.  The Judiciary Committee has until April 12 to vote on the bill.

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Bethel residents send budget proposal to referendum

Bethel residents at the annual town meeting on the budget last night voted to send the tax and spending plan to a referendum.  The vote on the $78.4 million proposal will take place on April 11th.  Residents will also be able to decide on borrowing $1 million to replace boilers at the high school.  During the Town Meeting, there were several proposals to reduce the Board of Finance recommended plan.  The reductions, which were not adopted, would have been from the schools, part time employees in the health department and winter road sand supplies.

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Newtown company highlighted as Sen. Murphy's 'Monday Manufacturer'

A Newtown business is being highlighted as Senator Chris Murphy's "Monday Manufacturer."  Family-owned Sonics & Materials specializes in the manufacturing of ultrasonic liquid processing and ultrasonic plastics assembly equipment, which includes welding, cutting and sealing systems, and ultrasonic metal welding systems for bonding conductive materials.  Robert Soloff, the founder and CEO of Sonics, was awarded a patent by the U.S. government for the groundbreaking technique that is now used universally across many sectors, in 1965. Sonics employs 85 people and work out of a 55,000 square foot headquarters with full machine shop capabilities and state-of-the-art equipment in Newtown. The company provides work study programs to students at Henry Abbott Technical High School and Emmett O'Brien Technical High School, and recruiting students from Naugatuck Valley Community College and the UConn School of Engineering.  Today, 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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Weekend closure of Route 25 in Monroe announced for bridge replacement work

The state Department of Transportation has scheduled a detour for Route 25 in Monroe from Friday at 7pm to Monday at 9am for work to replace a bridge.  The contractor can extend the closure to 9am only if the late morning work can eliminate one of the remaining weekend detours of this construction project. If not, the detour will end by 6am Monday.  The closure is weather dependent.  All business access for properties located within the construction zone will remain open, although traffic may only be able to access from one direction or the other.  The detour is onto Routes 25 and 111 and Wasserman Way.  The project involves the replacement of two box culverts, installation of new drainage and a water main, and associated road repairs and paving.  The nearly 5-point-6 million dollar project is scheduled for completion on August 31st.

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Public hearing tonight on Brookfield proposed budget

The Brookfield budget is up for a public hearing tonight.  The Board of Finance is hosting the forum on the proposed $70 million operating budget. 

The plan called for $44 million for the schools and $18.8 million on the municipal side.  The proposal includes $5.2 million of debt service.  There will also be discussion about the $3.5 million capital budget.  Spending would go up by little more than 5-percent, raising the tax rate by 2.87 percent.  

The capital budget includes road paving, a new HVAC control system for the high school, a fire pump generator for Whisconier Middle School, a fire pumper truck for the Candlewood Fire Company, and vehicles for the public works and parks and recreation departments among other projects. 

The meeting is at 7pm in the Brookfield High School auditorium.

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Danbury Firefighters presented with award for life savings efforts

The Danbury Fire Department has been awarded the Green Cross from Hurst Company for a rescue made last year.  The Green Cross is the symbol of recognition for those who have used the Jaws of Life products to save lives. 

(Photo: DFD)

In July of last year, around midnight on the 27th, a two vehicle accident on Newtown Road left one person trapped in one vehicle, two trapped in the other. 

All three victims were suffering from life threatening traumatic injuries.  According to the Hospital Trauma Coordinator, without rapid extrication, the outcome would not have been as favorable as it was, with all three eventually recovering. 

In one vehicle, fire officials say the position of the trapped driver made it very difficult to perform a modern dash-lift maneuver to rescue him, so firefighters reverted to the more traditional method of a “steering wheel/dash lift”, utilizing an eDraulics jaws with chains to free this trapped driver.

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Ohio teen charged for swatting incident in Putnam County

A Swatting incident in Putnam County has lead to the arrest of a 17-Year-Old in Ohio on more than six dozen criminal charges.  73 counts of delinquency were filed against a 17-year-old male, including 40 felonies and 33 misdemeanors. 

Last August, the Sheriff's Office received a report of a hostage situation at a house in the New York town of Kent.  The caller alleged that he had an AR-15, had shot his wife and was holding his son hostage.  After contacting the homeowner, who said he was out of state, a neighbor provided a key.  Sheriff Deputies found the home unoccupied. 

During the investigation, they developed information about the phone used to make the “fake” emergency call and learned that there were similar incidents around the country.  Investigators and others were able to identify the caller. 

Putnam County Sheriff Robert Langley hopes that the resolution will dissuade others from trying this type of activity.

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Judge denies motion to dismiss human trafficking charges against Conn. businessman

The trial continues today in Danbury against a Connecticut businessman accused of being part of a human trafficking ring that police say preyed on mentally ill and intellectually disabled boys and young men for more than 20 years.  Yesterday, the judge denied a motion to dismiss the case against Bruce Bemer.  His attorney claimed the prosecution failed to disclose evidence favorable to the owner of the New London-Waterford Speedbowl racetrack.  That evidence was reportedly a phone call from an inmate in the same prison as the alleged ring leader, Robert King of Danbury, who took a deal offered by the judge in exchange for helping with the case.  King entered a guilty plea, and the state dropped his remaining charges.

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Former New Milford Police Chief sues town, Mayor

A former New Milford police chief is suing the town and Mayor.  The Newstimes reports that Shawn Boyne claims his contract was not renewed last summer because he reported possible criminal activity about the Department's spokesman.  The allegations against Lt Larry Ash have not been shared publicly, but he was reinstated after an investigation determined he didn’t do anything wrong.  Boyne served as police chief for nearly a decade, was told he would get a contract renewal, but then Mayor Pete Bass did not renew his contract. Few details were given about the decision, but that he wanted a chief who lived in town, despite it not being a requirement.  According to the lawsuit, Boyne is asking for at least $15,000 in damages.

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Legislative committee advances air quality monitoring proposal

The General Assembly's Environment Committee has given unanimous and bipartisan approval to a bill introduced by Danbury state Senator Julie Kushner that provides air quality monitoring assistance to towns like Sherman, Kent and New Fairfield that may have their air quality affected by the soon to be opened Cricket Valley Energy Center in nearby New York.  The bill now heads to the Senate floor for further consideration. 

Kushner says a baseline measurement needs to be established in order to see how air quality might be degraded in the coming years.  The 1,110-megawatt Cricket Valley Energy power plant is being built in Dover Plains, less than 10 miles from the Sherman Town Green, and less than 20 miles from New Fairfield Town Hall.  The plant, powered by natural gas, is expected to go online in mid-November. 

The  Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has conceded that Cricket Valley will contribute more pollutants into the air in at least a 50-mile radius of the plant, they just don’t know exactly where, and how much.

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Grease fire quickly extinguished in Danbury condo unit

There was a small kitchen fire in Danbury last night.  Firefighters responded to Brookside Condos on Padanaram Road around 9:30pm for a report of smoke in a unit from a grease fire on a stove.  Pressure fans were brought in to clear smoke from the building.  3 occupants were evaluated for smoke inhalation and 2 were transported to Danbury Hospital as a precautionary measure. The Danbury Fire Marshal's office is investigating the cause.

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Teams can register for annual six-week Great Park Pursuit

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Families can register to participate in The Great Park Pursuit, an effort to showcase Connecticut’s state parks and forests.

The annual event, sponsored by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, will kick off May 11 at Chatfield Hollow State Park in Killingworth. Events will conclude June 15 at Waramaug State Park in Kent. Each week there will be a different environmental theme and related activities at a different park or forest.

Registration is not required. However, families or teams who pre-register and attend all six weeks of the program will be eligible to participate in the overnight campout at Lake Waramaug and receive a prize.

Registered participants must check in at each location, hand in a completed activity card and provide required documentation that they attended self-guided events.

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Meeting tonight in Redding about proposed improvements to Joel Barlow High School

There is a special town meeting in Redding tonight for improvements to the Joel Barlow High School Campus.  A resolution authorizing nearly $2 million is up for approval at the Region 9 Board of Education Special Meeting at 8pm.  The question will be included on ballot for budget referendum on May 7th.  Tonight's meeting is at Barlow.  Proposed improvements include repaving of Barlow Drive, guardrail replacement and drainage improvements, reconstruction of a portion of the access road adjacent to the southeastern parking lot off Turney Road, reconstruction of the running track, reconstruction of 8 bituminous pavement tennis courts, reconstruction of the rear concrete plaza and repaving of the north/south campus walkway.

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NY man arrested for 2017 armed robbery of Verizon store

A Yonkers man has been arrested in New Milford for an armed robbery that happened in 2017.  27-year old Anthony Lauria was arrested last week and in court Thursday on charges of criminal liability to commit robbery and larceny.

In August 2017, New Milford Police responded to the Verizon Wireless Store on Danbury Road after a man, later determined to be Lauria, inquired about merchandise, left and then came back armed. 

During the time Lauria entered the store, a black 4-door sedan is seen on video surveillance entering the parking lot area.  Lauria exited and is seen walking toward the black 4 door sedan. The black 4-door sedan then re-positions, parking in front of the Verizon Wireless store.

He allegedly pointed a gun at two employees.  A second suspect then entered, giving one of employee zip ties and directed him to zip tie his own hands. The two suspects then went into the inventory room and started filling up bags with merchandise.

As a result of this armed robbery, New Milford Police say the suspects made out with over $48,000 worth of inventory.  Arrest warrants for other involved suspects are pending at this time. 

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State legislators in Danbury tonight to talk tolls

Ranking members of the legislature's Transportation Committee will be hosting an informational meeting tonight in Danbury about proposed toll bills being considered this session.  Laura Devlin and Henri Martin will make a presentation to the public at City Hall from 7 to 8:30pm. 

Meanwhile, over the weekend anti-toll protesters were out in force across the state.  The group No Tolls CT held protests Saturday at five locations, urging toll opponents to contact their legislators daily and register their views on highway tolls.  

The Transportation Committee recently advanced three bills that would toll cars and trucks on three Interstates and sections of Route 15, possibly as soon as 2023. Lawmakers say they will eventually be crafted into one bill. It remains unclear if there's enough support to pass a final bill. 

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NJ forest fire causes haze, smell of smoke in Greater Danbury area

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has confirmed that a large brush fire in New Jersey is causing smoke conditions and odors throughout Connecticut.  DEEP will be monitoring the situation. New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department cautioned peopled over the weekend that there may be a smell of smoke and a haze in the area as wind dragged smoke up this way.  The forest fire in Burlington County, New Jersey was reported just after 2pm Saturday in Washington Township and quickly grew to more than 5,000 acres.  According to officials most of this area is woods; however, there are sporadic homes.

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Saw Mill Rd in New Fairfield closed for bridge replacement

Starting today, Saw Mill Road in New Fairfield will be closed 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. The Fire Department’s dry hydrant located adjacent to the bridge must also be removed during construction and reassembled afterward. 

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 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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Trial to begin for businessman charged in trafficking ring

DANBURY, Conn. (AP) - A Connecticut businessman is scheduled to go on trial in connection with a human trafficking ring that police say preyed on mentally ill and intellectually disabled boys and young men for more than 20 years.

State prosecutors are scheduled to begin presenting evidence to a jury Monday in Danbury Superior Court in the trial of Bruce Bemer. The Glastonbury resident and owner of the New London-Waterford Speedbowl racetrack has pleaded not guilty to multiple charges including patronizing underage trafficking victims and accessory to human trafficking.

Authorities identified alleged 15 victims of the trafficking ring, but say there could be hundreds more.

Two other men were arrested. Robert King, of Danbury, has pleaded guilty and awaits sentencing. William Trefzger, of Westport, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in prison.

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Tuition increases approved for Connecticut universities

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - The Board of Regents for Higher Education has approved tuition increases at the four Connecticut State Universities and Charter Oak State College.

Connecticut State Colleges and Universities President Mark Ojakian says Thursday's unanimous vote was not taken lightly, calling tuition increases a "last resort."

Democratic Gov. Ned Lamont's budget proposal does not increase state funding for the higher education system and only provides partial coverage for state employee pay increases. Without additional money, the universities are expecting an approximate $20 million gap.

The board has agreed to increase tuition for CSU students by 5 percent, while mandatory university fees will be held flat. Room fee increases will be capped at 2.5 percent.

Tuition for Charter Oak students will increase by 2.9 percent and fees will increase by 4.2 percent.

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Local lawmaker seeks to close campaign literature disclosure law loophole

A local lawmaker wants to close a loophole about campaign literature.  Deputy House Speaker Bob Godfrey of Danbury testified Wednesday before a legislative committee about his bill requiring the disclosure of altered photos.  Godfrey hopes that holding candidates and their campaigns accountable will discourage what he called "uncivil and underhanded behavior" seen in November.  No other state has adopted legislation similar to Godfey’s proposal, but 17 states have statutes providing criminal or civil penalties for false advertising. 

He was inspired in part by a mailer with the faces of then-Ridgefield Senate candidate Will Haskell and former Governor Malloy photoshopped onto a stock photo of two men, implying that Malloy endorsed the 22-year old and that they were acquainted. 

Godfrey wants digitally manipulated disclosures added to legislation, similar to the "paid for by" tags.  Committee members want to explore taking the proposal further because artificial intelligence is advancing to the point where someone could be superimpose into a video to create a false narrative.

As for how it would fit in the current disclosure laws, a line can be included that says what has been done to the image, such as cleaning up the background or cropping the photo.  Godfrey says it doesn't need to be a one-size fits all language.

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