Local Headlines Archives for 2020-02

Conn. Congressional delegation push for gun safety legislation

A year ago, the House passed a bipartisan background check bill.  5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes says it has the support of over 90% of Americans.  Since then she says there have been 421 mass shootings and over 30,000 lives lost to gun violence.  Hayes called on the Senate to vote on the bill.

Senator Chris Murphy is calling on the Majority Leader to take up a House-passed bipartisan background checks bill that was sent to the chamber a year ago. 

This week, Murphy detailed the growing power and importance of the youth movement in the absence of federal gun safety legislation. He cited research, which indicates that nearly a quarter of all gun sales in the United States may occur without a background check.

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United Way works to connect families to services through new nonprofit advisory board

A new nonprofit subsidiary of United Way of Western Connecticut, Prosperity Digital Marketplace LLC, has formed an Innovation and Technology Advisory Board to help the organization.  They'll develop new technologies to connect financially struggling households to social services and to businesses that will provide discounts to working families that make a little too much income to qualify for safety net services, but do not earn enough to make ends meet.  The United Way says the goal is to build a comprehensive digital platform that will more effectively and efficiently deliver services to individuals and families who work but live paycheck to paycheck, while offering innovative, online solutions to better meet the specific needs of this working population.

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Danbury school officials remind parents of sick day guidelines

Danbury Public School officials are reminding parents about Sick Day Guidelines.  This comes as local and state health districts prepare for possible cases of coronavirus in this part of the country.  Danbury requires children to stay home if they have a  temperature of 100-degrees or higher until they are fever free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication.  A severe cough, and/or chest congestion, sneezing, or chills, that will interfere with a child’s ability to participate in the school day should also prompt an absence.  If a student becomes sick at school, parents are asked to have arrangements for the child to be picked up within 30 minutes.

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Local schools take precautions to protect the public from coronavirus

Connecticut is implementing the first phase of mitigation efforts to be prepared to protect the public from coronavirus.  Bethel Public School officials say they are being kept apprised of the situation.  Mitigation efforts are known as non-pharmaceutical interventions to slow virus transmission down to reduce exposure and illness.

Bethel's community mitigation plans and efforts will be implemented based on the severity of illness in town and across the state. In the schools, they are following all cleaning protocols outlined by the Department of Public Health and reinforcing the CDC’s prevention recommendations.  But Superintendent Dr Christine Carver says the most important advice is to stay home and keep your children home if you or they are feeling sick.

Danbury Public Schools are working in close collaboration with the City to take appropriate steps to reduce the risks of any potential coronavirus outbreak to the community.  District and Community Leaders met this week to review plans and to begin to anticipate the impact that the spread of the virus could have here.  

Superintendent Dr Sal Pascarella says the best thing parents can do is talk with children about washing their hands frequently to lower the risk of spreading germs. Students should not be sent to school if they show any symptom of illness and should seek medical attention if flu-like symptoms exist. 

Custodians continue to clean Danbury schools thoroughly, and have included more intensive cleaning and disinfecting to help with the reduction of touch points where germs and infection may be found.

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Budget process moves forward in Bethel next week

The department head budget presentations to the Bethel Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance have been completed and are available to watch on the town's website.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker will present recommendations to the Board of Selectmen at 4:30 on Monday.  The Board will then present recommendations to Finance members at a meeting Tuesday night at 6:30.  The Board of Finance will then start deliberations, and continue at 7pm on Wednesday, if necessary.  All meetings will be held in Meeting Room A of the municipal center and are open to the public.

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Woman injured in rollover accident in Newtown

A woman was injured in a roll over car accident in Newtown on Tuesday.  Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire Company responded to Berkshire Road around 10:30pm on a call of possible extrication needed.  A driver travelling in light rain fishtailed while going around a curve.  The car struck an embankment on the right shoulder and rolled onto its roof.  The vehicle came to rest between the intersections of Zoar Road and Sherman Street.  The 23-year old driver needed help getting out of the car, was checked for injuries on scene and then transported to the hospital by ambulance.  Firefighters put down Speedi-Dri to contain fluids. Berkshire was closed for approximately 30 minutes.

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Retired Monroe Police officer loses battle with brain cancer

A retired Monroe Police officer has lost his battle with brain cancer. Andrew Wall retired two years ago after 22 years of service.   At the end of the Monroe budget meeting Wednesday, a Town Councilman who serves as liaison to the Monroe Police Commission shared the news.  Wall was diagnosed with terminal stage four Glioblastoma brain cancer in September of 2015.  Wall’s cancer went into remission in 2017.  His diagnosis sparked support in the community for he and his family. A GoFundMe page raised $3,350 worth of donations.

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UPDATED: Tylenol caused evacuation, closure of Danbury court house

There was a brief scare at Danbury Superior Court yesterday morning.  A white powder substance was found in the lobby around 10am, but it turned out to be acetaminophen. 

Firefighters, the Police Department and Court Officers evacuated the more than 200 occupants of the building and set up a perimeter to protect the area while a HAZMAT crew tested the substance. Fire Department Spokesman James Gagliardo says it may have been a crushed pill. 

A HART bus and the West Conn student center were used to keep evacuees warm. The affected area was cleaned and the building was re-occupied within an hour. 

The incident was deemed to be accidental in nature with no threat to the public.

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Lawyer: Win over transgender runner shouldn't affect suit

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Lawyers for three Connecticut high school runners suing to block the participation of transgender athletes in girls sports say recent victories on the track by one of their clients should have no bearing on the lawsuit.

Chelsea Mitchell, of Canton High School, beat transgender runner Terry Miller, of Bloomfield High School, in the 55-meter dash this month in both the Connecticut State Class S indoor track meet and the state open.

Mitchell and two other Connecticut high school runners filed a lawsuit this month seeking to block a state policy that allows high school athletes to compete based on the gender they identify with, arguing transgender girls have an unfair physical advantage.

In seeking to become defendants in the lawsuit, lawyers for Miller and Andraya Yeawood, another transgener athlete, point to Mitchell’s Class S victory as evidence that the plaintiffs’ argument is faulty.

But in a court filing Wednesday, Mitchell’s lawyers argue that her wins over Miller do nothing to undermine the underlying argument that transgender athletes have unfair advantages.

“What Plaintiffs alleged — and what is true — is that due to physiological differences, female athletes cannot beat ‘comparably talented and trained’ males,” Mitchell’s attorneys wrote. “And if Chelsea beat Miller by a hair in a particular race, Miller nevertheless deprived one girl of the second-place title in that race, and pushed the third-fastest girl off the victory podium entirely.”

These are the first races in the seniors’ high school careers that Miller has lost to Mitchell.

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New Fairfield firefighters caution residents not to charge phones, tablets in bed

The New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department is cautioning people to a fire hazard for people who keep cell phones close by at night.  If you charge your phone in bed, fire officials say you might be unintentionally putting yourself in harm's way.  The fire company recently shared a photo on Facebook from a department in New Hampshire showing burned sheets and a charred charger. 

When a phone or tablet is charged on the bed or under a pillow, the heat generated cannot dissipate and the charger will become hotter and hotter--with the likely result of the pillow or bed catching fire. 

According to a 2014 National Sleep Foundation poll, 45 percent of parents and 30 percent of children sleep with a tablet or smartphone in the bedroom. Of that group surveyed, 28 percent of parents and 35 percent of children admitted to sometimes leaving their devices on at night.

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Regional Hospice in Danbury adding floor dedicated to pediatric patients

Regional Hospice in Danbury will be adding a floor dedicated to pediatric patients near the end-of-life. President and CEO Cynthia Roy says the new wing is focused on providing a comforting respite for children that enter the center, with plans for a starry-skied ceiling, a comfortably designed environment, and beds that have the ability to go out on the patio to bring patients into nature.  Roy lost her best friend, Leslie, to leukemia when she was 16.  When Leslie was sick, she didn’t have the opportunity to go outside. Roy says one of the most important things was to have a center where beds could actually go out into the garden and patients could feel the sunshine on their face.  The designs can be viewed on Regional Hospice’s website.

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Lawmakers want a say in college consolidation, mergers

The Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education is pushing ahead with a plan to consolidate the state's 12 community colleges.  Lawmakers want to have an officials say in the merger or closing of institutions within the Connecticut state colleges and universities.  A bill up for a hearing yesterday  would require legislative approval.  While not part of the consolidation plan currently moving forward, members of the General Assembly want a say on matters pertaining to West Conn, Eastern, Southern, and Central as well.

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Danbury seeks to replace turf fields using bond money up for April vote

Danbury is looking to replace three artificial turf fields: Steve Kaplanis Field at Broadview, Rogers Park Field and the Danbury High field. The one at the high school was replaced 7 or 8 years ago, but Mayor Mark Boughton says when the warranty is up, there's a liability issue.  

If the field doesn't pass annual g-force rating testing, the city is responsible for any injury someone may get on the field. The test is supposed to mimic a child's head coming down on the field and what the reaction is of that surface to protect the child. 

Based on priority, one field will be done each year for the next three years.  The work will cost about $3 million.  Public Works Director Antonio Iadarola says they have great drainage, but there are downfalls to having artificial turf. 

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Tylenol prompts brief evacuation of Danbury court house

Danbury Superior Courthouse was evacuated this morning because of a white powder substance.  A HAZMAT crew was called to test the substance, which turned out to be acetaminophen.  Fire Department Spokesman James Gagliardo says the substance may have been a crushed pill.  A HART bus and the West Conn student center are being used to keep evacuees warm.  The powder was found in the lobby shortly before 10:30am. 

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State Police identify man killed in Newtown car crash

State Police have identified the driver killed in a single car crash yesterday on I-84 in Newtown.  Police say 69-year old Harold Gilligan of Springfield, Massachusetts was headed eastbound around 2pm when he traveled off the right side of the roadway.  His car came to rest in a wooded area off the right shoulder between exits 10 and 11.  Gilligan was pronounced dead on the scene by EMS personnel.  The vehicle was towed from the scene.  The case remains under investigation. 

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Danbury couple arrested by Norwalk Police for alleged child abuse

A Danbury couple has been arrested by Norwalk Police for allegedly hitting a child with a phone cord wire and making the child hold books over their head until it hurt as a form of punishment.  Norwalk Police received a complaint of child abuse from the Connecticut Department of Children and Families on January 16th.  Police say the child was struck with a belt on multiple occasions by 31-year old Liseth Castillo-Cruz and her boyfriend, 35-year old Jose Valenzuela.  On Monday, arrest warrants were issued for the couple.  Detectives located Valenzuela and Castillo-Cruz at separate locations in Danbury yesterday.  Both were charged with Risk of Injury to a Minor and Cruelty to Persons.  Valenzuela was also charged with Assault.  They are each due in court on March 6th.

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National Heritage Area Bill introduced to protect funding for the Upper Housatonic Valley

5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes has introduced the National Heritage Area Bill to protect funding for the Upper Housatonic Valley for another 15 years. Hayes says the park generates $169.9 million in economic impact, supports 1,944 jobs, and generates $15.0 million in tax revenue annually.  She added that the protection of areas like this is essential to preserving Connecticut's history and natural resources. The current authorization is set to expire in 2021. National Heritage Areas are designated by Congress as places of natural, cultural and historic importance.  The Upper Housatonic Valley spans the watershed of the upper Housatonic River, covering eight towns in Connecticut and eighteen in Massachusetts. 

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Sacred Heart students help Easton firefighters make recruitment video

The Easton Volunteer Fire Department has hosted neighboring departments to do a variety of training evolutions which were filmed by Sacred Heart University students.  The training will be part of a recruitment video for volunteer firefighting.  Firefighters from Stepney and Stevenson in Monroe and others were on hand for the session. The video will highlight some of what volunteer firefighters do, with the goal of creating interest among residents to join their respective departments.

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Bethel Fire Apparatus Committee recommends complete inspection for out-of-service truck

The Bethel Fire Apparatus Committee is recommending the town sign off on $1,400 to have a complete inspection done on an aerial fire truck, which is currently out of service because the ladder won't extend. 

The Committee was formed as Bethel officials look into the best option for getting a working aerial ladder truck in town for the Bethel Fire Department.  Stony Hill Fire Company will also likely need an aerial truck in the near future due to growth in that section of town.  They currently do not have one. 

If the funding is approved, Committee Chairman Richard Thode says a representative from manufacturer Sutphen will come out and do a complete inspection of the truck.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker agreed it would be worthwhile.  Thode says corporate will then give the committee a status of the truck and a price for repairs.  While any repair won't guarantee another 20 years of life for the truck, it would get it back in service. 

Thode says the committee was told the truck was a pet project of Sutphen and there were no records, but the representative relayed that he found that hard to believe.  Thode was asked to give the company the chassis number, because the representative was sure they have the records since it's a 2006.  If it was built in the 70s, it could be plausible that the records don't exist.

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Fatal accident closed part of I-84 in Newtown during evening commute

A fatal accident closed part of I-84 in Newtown yesterday afternoon and into the evening commute.  State Police say the single car crash happened around 2pm, between exits 10 and 11 eastbound.  The car reportedly hit the median.  The Department of Transportation initially only closed the right lane, but an hour later, State Police closed all lanes. 

The DOT reported traffic backed up for nearly 12 miles, back to exit 3.  As police and firefighters worked to clear the scene, only the right lane remained closed around 4:30pm.  All lanes were reopened shortly before 7pm.

It is unclear at this time how many people were in the vehicle. 

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Putnam County Sheriff investigates counterfeit currency passed at numerous stores

An increase in counterfeit currency cases have popped up throughout Putnam County and neighboring counties.  The Sheriff’s Department is actively investigating cases in which counterfeit $100 bills are being used to make smaller purchases at convenient stores, drug stores and eateries. The small purchase allows the suspect to walk away with legal US currency leaving their unsuspecting victims short, financially. Sheriff Langley is reminding merchants and consumers to check currency during a transactions for its authenticity. Counterfeit currency can easily by detected using the proper tools, commercially available or, if you suspect the currency is counterfeit, you can contact your local law enforcement agency.

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North Salem man arrested for witness intimidation connected to September shooting in Danbury

Danbury Police have arrested a North Salem man for assault and witness intimidation in connection with the shooting death of Jason Hoffman in September.  The Connecticut Post reports that David Leslie Beers was also charged with threatening and reckless endangerment for dragging the witness with his van down a driveway because the witness gave information to police. 

According to the arrest warrant, the victim told police the 34-year old came to their home on Valentine's Day to buy drugs.  When the victim approached the driver's side, Beers allegedly grabbed the witness and sped off. 

The witness blacked out, later went to the hospital and then received threatening texts and a voicemail from the man.  According to a transcript of expletive-laced voicemail, Beers said "rat on my boy Ramos and I’m gonna put the beats on you. You heard me?” 

Beers is due in court March 9th. 

33-year old David Ramos is facing a change of manslaughter for Hoffman's death. 

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New Fairfield Board of Selectmen submits budge proposal to Finance Board

The New Fairfield Board of Selectmen has sent a $13.22 million budget to the Board of Finance for consideration.  The proposal is a 5.69 percent increase over the current year. 

First Selectman Pat Del Monaco says it takes into account the two school building projects, economic development initiatives, public safety and long-term capital planning.  Selectman Kim Hanson expressed a concern about the 5.41 percent payroll increase.  Salaries make up about a third of town spending. 

The Board of Finance is holding a public hearing on the budget March 7th.  The New Fairfield Board of Education is proposing a $44.35 million budget.

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Ridgefield Police Department scheduled for on-site assessment for re-accreditation

The Ridgefield Police Department is scheduled for an on-site assessment next month as part of a program to achieve Tier III re-accreditation.  The Police Officer Standards and Training Council will verify the department is continuing to meet professional standards. 

The state accreditation program requires agencies to demonstrate excellence in management and service delivery.  The no-cost, voluntary, self-directed process is accessible to all Connecticut Departments, regardless of their size or resources. 

The onsite visit will be March 23rd.  As part of the on-site assessment, agency employees and members of the community are invited to offer comments. Copies of the Standards are available at the Ridgefield Police Department.

The Accreditation Officer of the Ridgefield Police Department is Sgt. John Knoche. Comments can be mailed to William E. Tanner, III, POSTC Accreditation Division at 285 Preston Ave. Meriden, Connecticut 06450, by telephone at 203-427-2602, by fax at 203-238-6643 or by email Accreditation.Compliance@ct.gov and entering the name of the agency in the subject line of the email.

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Fairfield County Community Foundation's Giving Day is today

Fairfield County Community Foundation's Giving Day is today.   The region's biggest philanthropic event of the year is a 24-hour online fundraising marathon designed to amplify the work of nonprofits. 

United Way is hoping to raise $15,000 for the ALICE Enrichment Fund to pay for activities for 50 children.  ALICE families are Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed families. 

Approximately 40 children are currently on waiting lists, and demand for the program will surge as spring sports start up. United Way has secured an anonymous dollar for dollar match for donations made to this fund as part of Fairfield County’s Giving Day. 

The ALICE Enrichment Fund is administered through community partners in towns served by United Way. The partners accept applications from parents and distribute the United Way funds to activity providers. The partners include town social service agencies and nonprofits that serve children and youth. For example, in Danbury it is administered by Danbury Youth Services.

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No known cases of Corona Virus in Danbury

Danbury Director of Health Lisa Morrissey has been monitoring the Corona Virus situation and is in communication with state and federal officials. At this time there are no known cases of Corona Virus in Danbury.  There currently is no vaccine available to protect against COVID-19.  The tips for protecting yourself are the same as precautions for other viruses like the flu.  They including hand washing, avoiding close contact with people who are sick and covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash

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Bethel Fire Departments respond to three outdoor fires since Saturday

Bethel Fire Departments have responded to three outdoor fires since Saturday due to inappropriate actions of people.  The Fire Marshal says the incidents involved open burning of paper adjacent to woodlands, burning large piles of brush without a permit, and fireplace ashes dumped in the woods that were still hot.  The latest was an illegal burn on Kristy Drive Monday afternoon.  When there are dry conditions there are open burning regulations.  The Bethel Fire Marshal is also reminding residents that fireplace ashes remain hot for days after being removed. They should be placed in a metal can, but if ashes are being dumped outdoors, it should be away from leaves and be wet down with water.

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Putnam Lake Firefighters extinguish blaze in home under construction

New Fairfield firefighters have provided mutual aid to the Putnam Lake Fire Department for a residential blaze.  The structure fire was reported on Kingston Road on Monday afternoon.  Patterson fire department arrived first on the scene and escalated the call to a second alarm.  Crews quickly realized that the house was under construction and unoccupied. They stretched a hand-line to the deck and started to extinguish the flames.  Brewster firefighters also responded to the scene while the Pawling Fire Department covered the Put Lake firehouse.  The fire is currently under investigation, the cause is undetermined at this time. No injuries were reported.

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Danbury Zoning Commission considers liquor permits for new restaurants

The Danbury Zoning Commission has accepted a petition from LongHorn Steakhouse for consideration of a Special Permit for Restaurant Liquor License.  The restaurant is looking to build in a parking lot near the mall.  The other restaurant proposal for the site making its way through the planning and zoning process is Shake Shack.  Danbury Zoning officials say that company also wants liquor, but will be coming in with a request at a later date.

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3 people arrested in Wilton after fight over alleged firewood theft

Three people have been arrested by Wilton Police on assault charges over an alleged firewood theft.  The Connecticut Post reports that Rolen and Beatriz Altamirano of Weston rent a Danbury Road commercial property and saw someone on security footage repeatedly taking firewood over three weeks.  They reportedly staked out the site and confronted 45-year old Leslie Philbert of Danbury on Tuesday.  Police say the couple blocked the car and got out with an aluminum bat.  Philbert got the bat and assaulted both Altamiranos.  All three were treated at Norwalk Hospital.  Rolen and Beatriz Altamirano were each charged with breach of peace.  Philibert was charged with criminal trespass, larceny, and two counts each of robbery and assault.

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Bethel Police host blood drive

The Bethel Police Department hosted a blood drive on Monday.  The Red Cross was able to get 29 whole blood donations.  Each donation helps three people, so 87 patients in hospitals across Connecticut have been helped.  Bethel Police will be hosting another Blood Drive on Wednesday, May 13th from 11am to 4pm.  People making an appointment to donate online at redcrossblood.org must use the sponsor code BETHELPD.  The event will not show up unless the sponsor code is entered.

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Field Trials of non-GMO Rodent-Targeted Oral Bait Vaccine in Preventing Lyme Transmission

The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station and US Biologic, Inc. have published field trials showing the effectiveness of an orally-delivered antiLyme vaccine targeting the major wildlife source of Lyme disease. 

The field trials were conducted over three years in the residential area of Redding in the white-footed mouse.  The authors observed significant drops in the numbers of mice infected with the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, and its infection in blacklegged ticks feeding on mice, when comparing homes where the vaccine was and was not applied. 

After one year of deployment, treated sites showed a 13 times greater decrease in infection compared to control sites, a 26% drop versus 2% drop. 

The vaccine is currently undergoing the USDA regulatory process for commercial licensure. 

Study co-author Dr Scott Wilson says fewer infected ticks mean less infection in the field overall so the decrease would be greater year-over-year that the vaccine is applied.  He adds that previously infected ticks will ingest antibodies when feeding on mice and be ‘cleared’ of infection.  According to Williams, when non-infected mice consume vaccine-coated pellets, they are protected from infection with the bacterium.  Non-infected ticks, therefore, cannot pass the disease to other animals, including humans. 

The journal article in the peer-reviewed publication, Experimental and Applied Acarology is titled "Field Evaluation of a Novel Oral Reservoir-Targeted Vaccine Against Borrelia burgdorferi Utilizing an Inactivated Whole-Cell Bacterial Antigen Expression Vehicle." 

329,000 U.S. citizens are estimated to contract Lyme disease each year, and, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, the disease costs the U.S. between $50B-$100B.

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Singer who drew fire at Mar-a-Lago competent to face trial

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — A Connecticut opera singer is now mentally competent to stand trial on charges that she sped through a checkpoint outside President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, drawing gunfire from law enforcement officers, her attorney says.

Hannah Roemhild has responded well to medication she has received while being held at the Palm Beach County Jail and can assist in her defense, according to state court documents posted Tuesday.

Defense attorney David Roth said shortly after Roemhild's Jan. 31 arrest that she has a long history of mental illness and had been off her medication. No trial date has been set.

Prosecutors say the 30-year-old Connecticut resident was spotted dancing on the roof of her rented SUV outside The Breakers, a ritzy Palm Beach hotel about 2 miles north of Mar-a-Lago. When a Florida Highway Patrol trooper working off-duty security at the hotel approached her, Roemhild jumped into her driver’s seat and sped south on Ocean Boulevard with the trooper in pursuit, authorities said.

Roemhild didn’t stop when she reached the checkpoint outside Mar-a-Lago, authorities said, causing Secret Service agents and Palm Beach County sheriff’s deputies to open fire, shattering the SUV’s back window.

The trooper backed off and Roemhild picked up her mother, who had just arrived at nearby Palm Beach International Airport, and drove to her hotel. Troopers tracked her there and she was arrested. Authorities do not believe she intentionally targeted Mar-a-Lago. The president wasn’t there but arrived several hours later to spend the weekend.

Roemhild is charged with aggravated assault on a law-enforcement officer with a deadly weapon and fleeing and resisting an officer. She remains jailed without bond.

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Eversource ramps up tree trimming efforts in New Milford

Tree trimming efforts will be ramping up in New Milford and elsewhere in the state.  As the ongoing crisis of dead, dying and hazardous trees continues to plague Connecticut and threaten electric reliability, Eversource is investing more than $83 million in trimming and removal this year. The energy company’s tree maintenance program is underway along roads in several communities in an effort to fortify the electric distribution system.  Among the 131 communities where tree trimming will be performed this year, some of the most extensive work is scheduled to be done along 105 miles in New Milford.  As part of its comprehensive vegetation management plan for 2020, Eversource will be trimming trees along more than 4,200 miles of roadside overhead distribution lines around the state. Eversource notifies customers in advance if work is necessary on their property. 

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Club Getaway in Kent to be featured in new TV show

A facility in Kent will be featured on a new reality TV show.  Club Getaway, an adult summer camp, will be the setting of Bravo's new show called Camp Getaway.  The staff of the 300-acre weekend sleepaway camp in the Berkshire Mountains lead traditional activities such as archery and kickball, but the experience is mixed with adult beverages.  Each episode will "feature a new set of campers — and, predictably, new challenges and drama." Bravo says the crew work tirelessly to cater to guests' sometimes extravagant whims and demands, all while navigating living and working together all season.  Bravo hinted that close quarters and the stress of the job mean not everyone will make it through the entire summer.  Camp Getaway premieres on April 6th.

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Chamber of Commerce to host Gov. at Eggs & Issues event

The Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce annual Eggs and Issues legislative breakfast will feature Governor Ned Lamont.  He spoke to chamber members last year and was still hopeful that lawmakers would pass a toll plan to pay for transportation infrastructure upgrades.  Part of the roadblock for him has been the bipartisan Danbury delegation standing in opposition of any tolls.  Traditionally the event has featured a Democrat and Republican discussing issues before the General Assembly, but Lamont was the keynote last year.  He will again address the gathering next month and Chamber President PJ Prunty hopes will become a new tradition.  The Eggs and Issues event is set for March 27th.  Tickets are $50 for chamber members, $75 for guests.

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Man sprayed with bear repellent in alleged road rage incident

A man was sprayed in the face with bear repellent during an alleged road rage incident in Southbury last week.  Southbury Police responded to Old Waterbury Road Thursday on a report of two residents with pain in their face and eyes.  The Connecticut Post reports that 27-year old Jesse Zehall admitted to spraying the men after he said one of them broke his mirrors and screamed at him.  The man who was directly sprayed was identified as 67-year old Charles Weise.  He reportedly felt Zehall was driving dangerously close and too fast.  Police said Zehall reported driving by the men three times and “had a verbal altercation each time before deciding to spray the man on the third go around. Zehall was charged with breach of peace and two counts of assault.  Weise was charged with breach of peace and criminal mischief.

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House committee struggles to get records from Conn. Congressional candidate

The U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee is reportedly struggling to get documents from GOP 5th Congressional District candidate Robert Hyde as they investigate potential surveillance of Kent native Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.  According to emails obtained by NBC News, Hyde accused the congressional committee of trying to set him up. 

Text messages were made public during  impeachment investigation that showed Hyde provided detailed information about Yovanovitch's purported whereabouts in Kyiv to Lev Parnas, an indicted associate of Rudy Giuliani. 

According to the emails, the records Hyde previously produced contain significant gaps, including records the Committee claims were turned over by Parnas.  Hyde previously said it was just a joke, and obtained the information from another supporter of President Trump, a Dutch man named Anthony de Caluwe.  Ukraine's government and the State Department have also been investigating.

According to the emails, Hyde has not followed through on a commitment he made to turn over his devices for the committee to search.  Hyde responded that he would have to be present, "knowing how corrupt our government is, I said that I'm not comfortable giving you my devices.

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Two injured in Brookfield crash

Brookfield and Candlewood Volunteer Fire Companies were dispatched to a two car crash last night witnessed by a member of Candlewood Company.  The firefighter reported to dispatch that two occupants were trapped in their vehicle along Candlewood Lake Road between Rocky Road and Evergreen.  The street was closed during the response.  Firefighters stabilized the vehicle while other crew members worked to gain entry.  The patients were removed from the vehicle and transported to Danbury Hospital.

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Bethel School District hosting their next Parent University

The Bethel School District is hosting their next Parent University tomorrow night.  The workshops cover a range of topics including resources to help with college exploration, college athletics and the roles and responsibilities of living in a digital society.  In the later session, parents can learn how to help students to act in ways that are safe, legal and ethical in an interconnected, digital world.  Registration is required for the workshops.

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Brookfield state Rep. announces run for reelection

Brookfield state Representative Stephen Harding has announced his candidacy for reelection.  The Republican is holding a kickoff event Friday at 7pm at O’Connor’s Public House in Brookfield  The district also includes part of Danbury and the Stony Hill section of Bethel.  Harding was first elected to the position during a special election in February 2015.  He is the ranking member of the Environment Committee and also serves on the Judiciary and Government Administration & Elections committees.

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Republicans to honor girls suing over transgender policy

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Connecticut Republicans will honor three high school runners who are suing to block a policy that allows transgender athletes to compete in girls sports, the party chairman said Monday.

Chelsea Mitchell, Alanna Smith of Danbury and Selina Soule will be given the party’s Courage Award at a fundraising event recognizing women in leadership roles on March 25, state party Chairman J.R. Romano said.

The girls filed a lawsuit earlier this month against several school boards and the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which allows athletes to compete as the gender with which they identify.

The lawsuit argues the transgender girls have an unfair physical advantage.

The CIAC says its policy complies with state law.

The two transgender athletes currently competing in high school track have asked to become defendants in the lawsuit, arguing their successes on the track have come as a result of hard work and are well within the range of high school track times for non-transgender girls.

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Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company responds to two illegal burning calls

Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company responded to two illegal burning calls Sunday. With the dryer weather and wind, fire officials say burning items outdoors can cause bigger problems than just smoke. 

They say two recent structure fires were caused due to careless and illegal burning of brush and items outdoors.  Residents looking to burn must have a valid and signed permit from the Brookfield Fire Marshals office.

Open burning is not allowed to clear land prior to construction activities. In addition, open burning cannot be used as a means to dispose of construction debris, household trash, or leaves. Open burning is also not allowed if the Air Quality Index is forecasted to be 75 or higher anywhere in the state; the Forest Fire Danger Index is rated High, Very High, or Extreme; or there is an advisory from DEEP of any air pollution episode.

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Danbury kicks off 2020 census efforts

Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz was in Danbury yesterday to kick off 2020 Census efforts in the City.  Postcards will be sent out March 12th inviting every household to fill out the census online.  This is the first year the census will be conducted, in part, online.  Anyone who doesn't do that by the end of March, will be sent traditional printed forms in April.  If that's not filled out and sent in by the end of April, enumerators will be going door to door. 

The Census Bureau is hiring 21,000 people in Connecticut for the part time work, which pays $25 an hour in the Danbury area.  Applicants will need to complete paperwork online and make an appointment to get fingerprinted for the background check.  She added that trusted community members who speak different language are encouraged to apply.

Census data is protected information only used for statistical purposes and may not be used by the federal agencies or any other organizations.

Bysiewicz says Danbury is a hard-to-count area, which means there are many multi-family housing units and a transitory population moving in and out of apartments.  She notes that an accurate census count is critically important to the state as it is the foundation to determine federal funding allocations for schools, hospitals, non-profits, and other public and private entities.

Currently, Connecticut is ranked 48th in the nation for paying the most in federal income taxes and is among the lowest in getting federal dollars in return. She says it's important that Connecticut state government take an active role in facilitating counting efforts to ensure an accurate return for school lunch programs, community development block grants, SNAP, transportation grants and more.

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Information session in Bethel tonight about elementary school renovations

Furniture is starting to be delivered to the new addition at Johnson School in Bethel.  Superintendent Christine Carver says 5th grade is getting closer to moving in.  She also toured the renovation site at Rockwell school last week.  Finishing touches are going in for classrooms, literacy and mathematics suites, the media center and art room.  New sidewalks for the back bus loop is being poured.  An information session about the renovations and the budget for the coming year will be held tonight.  Carver encouraged Johnson, Rockwell and Berry parents to attend.  The meeting is at Berry School at 6:30pm.

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Danbury receives grant for post-education support for students

The Danbury Public School District recently received funding from the Barr Foundation for its initiative “Portrait of the Graduate.” The program will focus on making sure that all graduates are well prepared for jobs and careers after high school.  The Boston-based Barr Foundation’s mission is to invest in human, natural and creative potential to elevate the arts, advance solutions for climate change, and connect all students to success in high school and beyond.  All Danbury schools, from pre-K to grade 12, will be engaged in the process, but  Assistant Superintendent Dr. Kevin Walston says this is a community initiative not just schools.  Officials will be reaching out to residents, students, teachers, business and community partners to help inform curriculum revisions from elementary through secondary education.  A steering committee is working to organize a Danbury Coalition.

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Public hearing in Hartford today on proposed diabetes supply cost cap

A public hearing is being held today at the state capitol on a proposed bill to cap costs for insulin at $50 a month, and diabetes-related equipment and supplies at $100 per month.  Kent Representative Maria Horn says she has heard from a constituent recently about the experience of her now college-age daughter who has Type I diabetes and the magnitude of the costs they have to juggle, and back-up plans they put in place to protect their daughter.  The bill would also make these supplies available without a prescription in certain circumstances. The Insurance & Real Estate Committee will have a public hearing on the bill on Tuesday at 11am.  Written testimony can be emailed to instestimony@cga.ct.gov.

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Case continued against State Police Sgt accused of driving drunk, injuring two

The criminal case against a Connecticut State Police Trooper who allegedly had 8 drinks before getting into an accident that injured a woman and her daughter in Southbury has been continued to March 24th.  Sgt. John McDonald was charged with driving under the influence, assault with a motor vehicle, reckless driving and failure to obey a stop sign in November.  McDonald was at the Black Hog Brewing Company in Oxford for a colleague's retirement party before the crash, according to the warrant.  Technology in his car showed McDonald was speeding at 71 miles an hour in a 40 zone.  A breathalyzer test was not administered on scene.

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Former priest accused of sexual assault pleads not guilty

DANBURY, Conn. (AP) — A former Connecticut priest accused of sexually assaulting one boy and groping another has pleaded not guilty.

Jaime Marin-Cardona, 51, of Danbury, pleaded not guilty to fourth-degree sexual assault, risk of injury to child and illegal sexual contact, the Danbury News-Times reported on Monday.

Marin-Cardona is accused of grooming two boys over four years. The alleged abuse began the same year Marin-Cardona became a priest at Our Lady of Guadalupe Church in 2014.

Marin-Cardona was placed on administrative leave Dec. 11 after the Diocese of Bridgeport’s sexual misconduct review board learned there were substantiated abuse allegations against him.

He turned himself in to Danbury police Jan. 3 and was released on $500,000 bond this month. He was required to wear a tracking device and comply with protective orders.

Marin-Cardona’s criminal defense lawyer Robert Golger has said his client maintains his innocence and is “looking forward to his day in court.”

The former priest’s next court date is scheduled for March 13.

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Danbury High School girls' basketball coach gets another honor

After leading the Hatters for more than 30 seasons and reaching 500 career wins last winter, Danbury High School girls’ basketball coach Jackie DiNardo is once again being recognized.  She has been named as the St. Clare Award winner by the Franciscan Life Center in Meriden. 

DiNardo will be recognized at the 35th Annual Franciscan Sports Banquet and Silent Auction on June 2nd.  Retired New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning will be presented with the 2020 St. Francis Award that evening as well. 

DHS Athletics Director Chip Salvestrini says this award represents giving back and helping others, things DiNardo has done all her life. 

DiNardo’s long career of accomplishments include being named a National High School Coaches Association finalist.  In 2005, DiNardo was inducted into the Texas Hall of Fame and into the Connecticut Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012.

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Bethel First Selectman selected to lead COST

Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker has been selected as the next president of an organization that advocates on behalf of small towns. Knickerbocker will lead the Connecticut Council of Small Towns.  COST provides member towns with resources to help them manage local operations and comply with laws and regulations.  Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi previously served as president.

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New Milford Police swear in new Captain

The New Milford Police Department officially has a new captain among the ranks.  Alan Wilcoxson was sworn in on Friday.  He comes to New Milford with extensive Police experience, having served  26 years with the Stratford Police Department. Wilcoxson also served in the Military with tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He served in the National Guard as a rank of Colonel, retiring with a promotion to a Brigadier General.

 

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New Fairfield Prevention Council is hosting a free Narcan training

The New Fairfield Prevention Council is hosting a free Narcan and question persuade refer/suicide prevention Training next month.  Registration is required for the event on March 2nd at 7pm at New Fairfield High School.  Attendees will learn signs and symptoms of an overdose, how to administer the reversal drug and about the Good Samaritan law, among other topics.

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Danbury resident sentenced for illegally reentering U.S. after being deported

A native of Mexico last living in Danbury has been sentenced to nearly two years in prison for illegally reentering the U.S. after being deported.  42-year old Andres Jacome Rodriguez was ordered to 22 months in jail for violating the conditions of his supervised release from a prior federal conviction. 

Jacome Rodriguez has used multiple names, dates of birth and two false social security numbers while living in the U.S. over the last 20 years.  During that time, he sustained multiple convictions in four separate states. 

Jacome Rodriguez was reported in October 2017 following a larceny conviction in Danbury.  Just days later he was picked up by border patrol in Texas and sentenced to 163 days in jail, time served.  He was deported again in March 2018. 

Jacome Rodriguez was arrested by Danbury Police last January for assault, disorderly conduct, risk of injury to a child, cruelty to animals and possession of a controlled substance.  He has been detained since his arrest.

The Judge sentenced Jacome Rodriguez to 18 months of imprisonment for illegally reentering the U.S., and a consecutive four months of imprisonment for violating the conditions of his supervised release. The state charges against Jacome Rodriguez are pending.

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Bethel man arrested for possession of child porn, computer crimes

A Bethel man has been arrested for possession of child pornography and risk of injury to a minor, among other charges.  Southbury Police received a complaint from a 25-year old woman in 2018 about being harassed on SnapChat by someone who logged into her account and sent her her own photographs with a short video containing inappropriate material. 

Southbury Police were able to locate the physical address that was associated with the Internet Service Provider user.  Last February, police carried out a search warrant at the Bethel home of 29-year old Kyle Coffey. 

Multiple electronic devices, compact discs and USB sticks were seized and contained evidence that Coffey had stolen or attempted to steal photographs of multiple females by hacking their email or SnapChat accounts.  The victims were contacted and made aware of the breach. 

During the forensic search, Southbury Police discovered multiple images and videos of child pornography. 

On Friday, Coffey was arrested and also charged with disorderly conduct, harassment and 3 counts of computer crime.  He was ordered held on $250,000 bond and is set to appear in Danbury Superior Court today.

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Brush fire extinguished in Bethel, Danbury

Two brush fires were quickly extinguished this weekend in the Greater Danbury area. 

On Saturday afternoon, Stony Hill Volunteer Fire Company responded to a hillside in the area of 30 Hickok Avenue.  Bethel Fire Department and West Redding Volunteer Fire Department also responded. 

Danbury firefighters contained a blaze on Sunday morning off Briar Ridge Road.  Firefighters were on scene for about an hour.  A plane on approach to Danbury Municipal Airport spotted smoke about a mile to the west.  A  firefighter reported the blaze was threatening a nearby home, but did not get closer.  The Ridgefield Fire Department was called for mutual aide.

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Conn. man charged for sex assault of minor found dead in home

A Connecticut man arrested by New York State Police last week has been found dead in his home.  Police say 46-year old Eric Fenyes was found dead Thursday, a day before he was due in court on a charge of sexual assault of a minor.  The Republican-American newspaper reports that a gun was used in Fenyes’ death and foul play was not suspected.  He also had a property in Sherman, which is listed in the court records as his address.  New York State Police charged Fenyes for allegedly engaging in sexual conduct with a victim under the age of 15 at a Poughkeepsie hotel last November.

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Local lawmaker wants police to have enforcement authority on idling cars

A local lawmaker wants his colleagues to take up a bill tackling climate change.  Ridgefield Senator Will Haskell says Connecticut statutes prohibit the idling of vehicles for more than three minutes, barring extreme weather.  But he says Connecticut's law gave enforcement power to the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's six air inspectors.  Haskell wants the enforcement power given to local police departments, and notes that DEEP is supportive of the idea.  Haskell says the laws they pass aren't worth the paper they are printed on unless communities are given the tools they need to enforce them.  More than a third of carbon emissions in Connecticut come from transportation outputs like vehicle exhaust. 

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Retired DHS Athletic Director to get award for work with rare disease foundation

A retired Danbury High School teacher and Athletic Director is receiving an award for work with a rare disease foundation.  The National Organization for Rare Disorders will present the Impact Award to Norm Winnerman for his years of service as a pioneer, mentor and advocate with the Cornelia de Lange Syndrome Foundation. 

Awardees will be honored on May 15th at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Ohio. 

Winnerman has been a part of the CdLS Foundation since 1989, when his granddaughter, Alison, was born with the rare genetic syndrome. She died suddenly at the age of four and a half, the result of a medical complication associated with the syndrome.  Officials say he was inducted into the de Lange Society for the many decades the he has contributed creative vision, innovative ideas and vital assistance to improve the quality of services and programs available to people with CdLS and their families. 

The U.S. Air Force veteran started working in the Danbury school system in 1962, and was athletic director from 1978-1992.  He has served on the Danbury Common Council, the War Memorial Board of Directors, Danbury Parks and Recreation Commission, and the Board of Trustees of the United Jewish Center.

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Redding officials review Plan of Conservation and Development

Redding officials have gotten an update on the town's 10-year Plan of Conservation and Development.  Milone & MacBroom representatives Mike Zuba and Elizabeth Esposito presented the survey results. 

Positive results in the community survey were overall quality of life, including the sense of community, town services and rural life. Georgetown business growth was listed as a high priority.  Other strengths noted were senior housing, open space and streetscapes/beautification. 

The weaknesses included lack of housing choices, cost of living, and market gaps for services and amenities. 

The results also indicated an interest in swimming/skating areas. 

One resident at the meeting questioned the status of the Georgetown development at the former Gilbert and Bennet Wire Mill site.  First Selectwoman Julia Pemberton said the taxation and foreclosure case against Georgetown Land Development Corporation was before the Connecticut Supreme Court, though no decision was immediately rendered.  Another resident suggested once the tax issue is resolved and there is development, it should be a  hybrid model.  Pemberton said work and meeting space among traditional retail space is a possibility. 

In response to a resident who suggested the use of a marketing consultant, Pemberton said there is nothing to market at this time.

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West Conn's of Business Administration program recognized

A nationwide survey citing M.B.A. programs that offer academic excellence has recognized West Conn's of Business Administration program.  The 2019-20 survey by national online evaluation service mbanogmat.com selected the Ancell School of Business as one of two institutions in Connecticut and 82 in the United States that qualified for its designation among "Top Picks with Reasonable GMAT Waiver Policies."  The waiver allows an MBA program applicant to forgo a test score submission, when work experience, degrees or other conditions are met.

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New Fairfield collecting items to include in care packages for the troops

Operation NF4Troops is collecting items for care packages to send to local soldiers serving abroad. A collection box is located in Town Hall.  Some other businesses and Town buildings throughout New Fairfield also have collection boxes.  A list of the needed items and how to make monetary donations to help with shipping costs can be found on the Town of New Fairfield's website.  There's also information on how to register a New Fairfield or Sherman service member to receive a package.

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Local lawmaker wants to limit guns purchased per month

A local lawmaker is calling on his colleagues to take up a bill he introduced last session that would limit the number of firearms an individual may purchase within a 30-day period.  Ridgefield Senator Will Haskell says he plans to advocate for a similar bill to be considered by the Judiciary Committee.  He notes that California, New Jersey and Maryland have limits.  In a nationwide study by the Giffords Center, roughly 65 percent of those surveyed support a one-per-month limit on gun purchases.

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Danbury Police warn of email scammer purporting to be from FBI

The Danbury Police Department is warning residents of a new email scam appearing to be from the FBI. The sender asks the recipient to contact a third party to arrange for the delivery of a large sum of money. This scam has several variations, and residents should be aware that the FBI does not send emails requesting assistance in the delivery of money.  Police say there are several steps people can take to prevent falling for this type of scam.  That includes not giving out personal information through email requests.

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COST holds annual meeting on legislative priorities for small towns

The Connecticut Council of Small Town has held its annual town meeting to discuss public policy issues affecting local communities.  COST is marking its 45th anniversary this year as the leading advocate of Connecticut’s small towns at the state Capitol.  Among the speakers at the annual event were Wilton Representative Gail Lavielle, State Attorney General William Tong and Governor Ned Lamont.   Department of Transportation Commissioner Joseph Giulietti was also on hand for the event.  He discussed Connecticut’s Transportation Strategy.

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36th Annual Polar Bear Run this weekend around Lake Waramaug

The 36th Annual Polar Bear Run is taking place this weekend around Lake Waramaug, which could lead to some traffic delays in the area.  The run on Sunday begins at 11am, with vehicle traffic limited until 1pm. The 7-point-6 mile race begins and ends at the Lake Waramaug Country Club property. More than 300 participants are expected to participate.  The event is sponsored by the Lion's Club and Washington EMS, among others.  Guiding Eyes for the Blind has been the event's charitable beneficiary since 2018.  Since then, organizers say they've donated over $6,400 to the foundation.

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Area legislator touts strength of Conn. Rainy Day Fund

A local lawmaker is concerned about an alternative plan to fund transportation infrastructure improvements in Connecticut.  Kent Representative Maria Horn says the money shouldn't come from the state's Rainy Day Fund, which is at it's largest amount in state history.  She notes that right now, the balance is 14 percent of annual expenses.  Horn added that the average in the country is about 7.6 percent.  Connecticut is the 9th strongest state in the country in terms of savings.  When the budget reserve reaches 15-percent, revenue that would have gone into the Rainy Day Fund, the dollars will instead be used to pay off the state's unfunded pension liability. 

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Legislators to hold constituent coffee hour in Woodbury

Southbury State Senator Eric Berthel is hosting a constituent coffee hour tomorrow.  The 32nd district also includes the towns of Bethlehem, Roxbury, Washington and Woodbury.  The community discussion tomorrow will also feature Bethlehem Representative David Wilson and Watertown Representative Joseph Polletta.  They'll be at Woodbury Diner on Main Street North in Woodbury from 9am to 10am.  The lawmakers plan to talk about the Legislative Session so far and gather ideas from constituents for potential legislation.

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8th annual Parent University in Bethel set for next week

The 8th annual Parent University in Bethel is set for next week.  The free educational workshops will be held Wednesday night at Bethel Middle School.  The workshops are designed to help parents of all age students understand what their child is learning in school and provide ways they can support their child at home.  Parent University is sponsored by Bethel Family-School Partnership Committee, Bethel Central PTO and Bethel Public Schools. Babysitting is provided.

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Bethel Selectmen urge Charter Revision Commission to drop advisory questions

One of the proposed Charter revisions in Bethel is to add a third option to the ballot advisory question.  Right now it's just 'too high' or 'too low' but an option of 'just right' has been discussed. 

First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says the Selectmen would prefer if the advisory questions are removed from the ballots.  He says the Charter should be as flexible as possible.  Advisory questions could be codified in an ordinance, which can be changed more frequently and easily than the town's Charter.  If it remains in the Charter, Knickerbocker says people will just argue about tradition rather than usefulness every time revisions are studied. 

Knickerbocker says the current options have never provided the guidance they're intended to provide.  Knickerbocker served 10 years on the Board of Ed before his current 10 years on the Board of Selectmen. 

He claims they have led to some confusion over the years.  Sometimes people will only mark off the question, but not yes or no on whether to approve the budget. 

Knickerbocker says the issue goes back more than 20 years, to a single instance.  There were multiple budget failures, back when the municipal and school spending were still combined, and the Superintendent at the time didn't know whether to make cuts or add funding.

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Ridgefield planners approve more parking for village district

The Ridgefield Planning and Zoning Commission has approved more parking for the village district.  Plans were scaled back from 56 down to 38.  The town parking lot expansion is now headed to the bidding process and construction could start this summer.  The parking spaces will be added at the north end of the Governor Street parking lot, taking up land behind the Casey Fuel building by the Boys and Girls Club.  It will be a one-way, loop parking lot, with angled parking.  The 570-thousand dollars was approved a couple of years ago during a budget referendum. 

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Study finds Fairfield County has highest density of adult blacklegged ticks

Fairfield County has the highest density of adult blacklegged ticks according to the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station.  Details of the first year of a statewide surveillance program for ticks and tick-borne diseases were released yesterday.  The program tested four types of ticks for five diseases.   It was paid for through a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

The survey found Lyme disease in 46 percent of adult ticks and 15 percent of nymphs. 

The agriculture experiment station traditionally tests ticks that are submitted by the public but only tests for the three most prevalent diseases.  Chief entomoligist Kirby Stafford says the findings tend to be weighted toward New Haven and Fairfield counties because of the experiment station’s location in New Haven. 

According to the state Department of Public Health, more than 12-hundred residents in Connecticut contracted Lyme disease from infected deer ticks last year.

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Bethel Board of Finance member won't recuse himself from votes after arrest

Despite a recommendation from the Bethel Town Attorney, a Board of Finance member arrested earlier this month will not recuse himself from voting on police and school budgets.  The Newstimes reports that the town attorney was concerned about Republican Nick Ellis and his impartiality.  Ellis pleaded not guilty to a trespassing ticket after police said he went inside the Rockwell School construction zone in December.  The publication reports that attorney Martin Lawlor wrote that the appearance of a conflict or bias could taint proceedings.  Lawlor noted that he wasn't implying that Ellis could not impartially deliberate or put the best interests of the Town.

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Newtown man arrested for allegedly texting sexually explicit videos of ex-girlfriend

A Newtown man has been arrested for allegedly texting several women sexually explicit videos of his ex-girlfriend without her knowledge or consent.  The Connecticut Post reports that 52-year old Paul Carpenter was charged Sunday with harassment, dissemination of voyeurism material, and dissemination of an intimate image.  A woman reported to the Oxford Resident State Trooper that friends sent her screenshots of texts, pictures and video.  According to the warrant, Carpenter’s phone and computer contained multiple files related to the case.  Carpenter told police the victim was aware he filmed the videos, and that she personally showed it to others in the past.  He was released on bond and is due in court on the 27th.

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CodeRidgefield Debuts in Connecticut Teaching Essential Coding Skills to Kids

RIDGEFIELD, Conn., Feb. 20, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- CodeRidgefield, a STEM tutoring space for kids 7-14, opens its doors next month.

Long term, a core understanding of programming will help people enter the ever-changing workforce in a variety of fields. Short term, coding helps children become confident problem solvers and better students. CodeRidgefield addresses this need for a curriculum that can turn the absolute novice into a master coder.

Gone are scheduled classes that if missed, will lead to your child playing catch-up. CodeRidgefield has a flexible curriculum. Parents can drop off when it's convenient, kids pick up where they left off. Once a month, once a week, a few times a week. the schedule is flexible and convenient.

"We're so excited for CodeRidgefield to open its doors - my children love gaming and coding, I'm looking forward to a new space with a flexible schedule that allows me to drop them off for a valuable learning experience while I do my grocery shopping," said Holly McClellan mother of Casey. "We've been friends with the Flemings for 8 years and love that they're bringing this essential program to our community."

CodeRidgfield is holding its open house on Sunday March 8th 1pm-3pm at 105 Danbury Road.

Founded by the father and daughters team: Matt Fleming, Bailey Fleming (17, junior at Wooster), Sloane Fleming (14, freshman at Wooster) and Leighton Fleming (11, 6th grader at ERMS). CodeRidgefield is located in a new built-out office near Stop & Shop. After school and weekend hours are available (Mon-Thurs 4pm-6:30pm Saturday 10am-2pm). Kids will create video games, chat bots, and websites. Coding languages learned include Java and Python. A math specific skill building course is also available for children aged 7-9 years.

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Southbury Police continue to seek ID of Red Bull thief

Southbury Police are continuing to investigate a larceny of Red Bull energy drinks from Stop and Shop on Sunday.  The shoplifting incident happened at the Main Street North location at approximately 1pm.  The suspect was described as a white male in his early 30’s wearing jeans, a dark colored hat and red shoes.  The day of the incident, Southbury Police posted on Facebook that the thief dropped their phone, and officers were waiting to make a trade for the stolen items.  Anyone with information regarding this incident is asked to contact Officer Jacques at (203) 264-5912.

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Remington Arms seeks confidential psychiatric records of Sandy Hook shooter

Remington Arms is seeking the confidential psychiatric records of the Sandy Hook shooter as the gun manufacturer faces a lawsuit from several victim families.  The Newstimes reports that the court request comes a week after the judge gave the families permission to inspect the gunman's computer.  Remington, which is accused of violating the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act by marketing its rifle to civilians, argues that the Supreme Court’s opinion in this case put the man's mental state squarely at issue.  The company's attorneys wrote in a motion that based on publicly available reports on the shooter's fascination with mass murder, that  advertisements, even if seen by him, played no causal role in his decision to commit murder.  The lawsuit is expected to go to trial next year.

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Bethel road closed due to car accident

A portion of Route 302 in Bethel is closed due to a car accident that happened yesterday afternoon.  A vehicle hit a utility pole and knocked down wires between Windaway Road and Kellogg Street.  The accident, which happened around 4pm, also resulted in a small fire.  Bethel Police say the temporary shutdown impacted the morning commute, but they anticipate the roadway will be reopened later this morning.  Old Hawleyville Road and Taylor Road should be used to circumvent the closed area.

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Sherman man arrested for alleged criminal sex act with minor

A Sherman man has been arrested for criminal sex act with a minor.  New York State Police charged Eric Fenyes on Tuesday.  An investigation determined that the 46-year old engaged in sexual conduct with a victim under fifteen-years-old at a hotel in the town of Poughkeepsie in November.  Fenyes was arraigned and ordered held on bond.  He is due in court tomorrow morning.  New York State Police are asking that anyone who has information about any additional offenses or may be a victim of an offense committed by Fenyes to contact Investigator Sloat at (845) 677-7375. All calls can be kept confidential.

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NH man arrested for stalking woman arrested again after trying to contact same woman

A New Hampshire man arrested last month for stalking a Putnam County woman has been arrested again after trying to contact the same woman, in violation of the courts protection order. 

The Putnam County Sheriff's Office reports that  Rattana Phimmavongsa had been released after arraignment on stalking charges under the newly implemented bail reform laws.  Phimmavongsa called the victim at least 5 times on February 11th, the same day that the stalking matter was scheduled for a Court appearance in Southeast Justice Court. 

He was located at Heidi's Inn, charged, arraigned and has been released again under the same bail reform law.

Phimmavongsa was initially arrested last month after continuously harassing a Southeast woman, who said they used to play an online game together but she stopped having contact with him years ago.  He showed up at her home after hacking into her online gaming account.

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Great Plain School to mark National No One Eats Alone Day

National No One Eats Alone Day is being marked in schools across the country on Friday.  Great Plain Elementary School in Danbury has partnered with Sandy Hook Promise and invited the community to join them Friday to spend time with the students and see the positive changes they are making. 

Community members are asked to RSVP to school staff so they know who will be coming to the site on Friday.  The day is an effort to show students how important and simple it is to help make the world a better place. 

Great Plain officials say it's imperative for students to develop skills and feel empowered to reach out to and include those who may be dealing with chronic social isolation and create a culture of inclusion and connectedness within their classroom, school and community. 

All this week, Great Plain has marked Black History month by celebrating diversity and inclusion.  An assembly was held Tuesday highlighting the contributions of African Americans throughout history, as well as addressing issues of equality and social justice. Students have participated in daily activities focusing on empathy, inclusion, and citizenship.

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Danbury Airport to receive federal grant for safety study

Danbury Municipal Airport is one of five facilities in Connecticut to share in $4.6 million in airport safety and infrastructure grants from the federal government.  Danbury will get $157,500 to fund studies of obstructions to aircraft approaches and airfield wind coverage.  Funding is also being provided to Bradley, Tweed-New Haven, Sikosrky and Meriden airports.  In addition to the funding announcement, U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced that the agency is working to streamline the approval process, cut unnecessary red tape and reduce duplicative regulations that do not contribute to safety.  According to the Federal Aviation Administration, U.S. civil aviation supports more than 5% of U.S. gross domestic product; $1.6 trillion in economic activity; and nearly 11 million jobs.

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Two Newtown food pantries combining

Two Newtown food pantries are combining.  Effective March 12th, the Salvation Army Food Pantry, maintained through Newtown Social Services, will close.  Food stock will be sent to the shelves of FAITH Food Pantry.  The Food Assistance Immediate Temporary Help pantry is located on Church Hill Road.  The Newtown Bee reports that Newtown Human Services Director Natalie Jackson made this a priority after filling the new position last year.  The Social Service Department moved from below the police station to new offices at the Newtown Community Center.  Salvation Army pantry clients using the services of FAITH Food Pantry will have to adjust to the one-time monthly visit restriction.  Jackson told the Bee that if there are transportation or timing barriers getting to FAITH, the Department will work to alleviate the challenges.

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New Milford Public Works holds seminars on planned road construction

The New Milford Public Works Department is holding Public Meetings about road work planned for the coming fiscal year.  The intent is to begin in the April construction season with planned substantial completion by November 1st. A presentation describing the plans for each road will occur on each given date, time and location.  The roads include Carmen Hill, Mist Hill Drive, Wellsville and Long Mountain Road among others. 

Public Information Meeting Schedule:
February 19 6 pm Heacock Crossbrook Rd John Pettibone CC

February 19 7:15 pm Geiger Road John Pettibone CC

February 20 6 pm Wellsville The MAXX

February 20 7:15 pm Brent Wood & Cobbler- Drainage & Traff The MAXX

February 20 8:15 pm Long Mnt Road # 4 The MAXX

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Public hearing held on school lunch debt bill

The Committee on Children has raised the issue of school lunch debt in a public hearing yesterday.  Bethel Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan says no student should be shamed because of lack of resources, especially when it comes to something as basic as what they eat.  The committee is still accepting written comments and testimony via email. Testimony should include name and the bill number, S.B. 89.

The bill would prohibit disciplinary action against public school children who have unpaid school lunch bills. The proposal would also allow any public or private entities to pay off such debt.

Various school districts in the state have seen school lunch debts on the rise. For example, education officials in Norwalk said last year that they had noticed their schools were on track to accrue more debts than in previous years. It often happens when families who don’t qualify for free lunch can’t afford to pay for their child’s lunch.

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Bethel Board of Ed to present budget proposal tonight

The Bethel Board of Education will present their $48.6 million budget proposal to the Boards of Selectmen and Finance tonight.  The proposal is a 4.7 percent increase over the current year.  The plan includes three math interventionists,two new elementary school teachers, a new assistant elementary school principal, a custodian and a social emotional coach.  School officials say this takes into account the district's growing enrollment.  Tonight's joint board meeting is at 6:30pm in Meeting Room A of the municipal center.

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Future of Norwalk River Dam in Ridgefield to be discussed

A rehabilitation plan for a multi-purpose flood control and wildlife reservoir dam in Ridgefield will be discussed during a meeting next week.  The Norwalk River Dam does not meet U.S. Department of Agriculture Natural Resources Conservation Service design criteria and performance standards. 

It's located southeast of Fox Hill Drive and the Fox Hill Condominiums and eligible for the Watershed Rehabilitation Program. 

A Supplemental Watershed Plan must be established, which evaluates the economic and environmental impacts for three alternatives: No Federal Action, Decommissioning, Structural Rehabilitation, and Non-structural Measures.  The NRCS says so far it seems the best course of action for this site may be dam removal with selective local floodproofing.

This alternative will be presented in detail February 27th at 7pm in the Ridgefield Recreation Center  Charter Oak Room on Danbury Road.  The public will have another opportunity to review the Draft Plan-EA and provide input before the plan is finalized.

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State Police Trooper, K9 to retire

A local Connecticut State Police Trooper is getting ready to retire after 30 years of service.  Trooper First Class Ed Anuszewski and his K-9 partner Texas will be leaving the force soon.  They both stopped by Danbury Fire Headquarters yesterday. 

(Photo: DFD)

Danbury Fire officials say Texas has always liked the City, noting that he took a two day "vacation" here in the woods a while back and made some life long friends in a search and rescue team.  Trooper Anuszewski and K9 Texas have saved the lives of a number of lost people and have tracked down a number of criminals as well. 

K9 Texas was part of a search party in the Wooster Mountain-Sugar Hollow Road area in December 2017 when his handler lost his footing on the steep terrain and dropped the 15-foot leash connecting the Trooper to Texas.  The dog continued tracking up the ledge, but when the Trooper reached the top of the hill, Texas was nowhere in sight.  The dog was found the following morning, tangled on a fence.

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Annual Fishing Guide Cover Photo Contest winner features Taunton Lake

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's seventh Annual Fishing Guide Cover Photo Contest winner features Taunton Lake in Newtown.  This year’s cover features a photograph submitted by Jim Curcuruto of Middlebury, showing himself and his son with a pair of Largemouth Bass caught at the same time. 

The pair are members of Newton Fish & Game, and will be featured on the 2020 edition of the guide being released later this month. 

The father-son duo did a lot of fishing in Connecticut in 2019, but noted that their favorite locations are the Pomperaug River for trout and, not surprisingly, Taunton Lake for bass. 

Adult anglers spend more than 4.4 million fishing days on Connecticut waters each year. This translates to nearly $450 million in economic activity across the state, resulting in thousands of jobs from bait and tackle shops as well guided trips, visits to local restaurants, and other support services. 

The Fishing Guide, which is free to the public, covers a wide array of materials including the locations of public fishing areas, open seasons, and record weights of numerous species. 

Jim recalls, “This photo was taken the morning of June 15th and we used spinning rods with wacky-rigged Senko worms. A typical day of fishing there gets us up early and on the lake around 6:30am. Most of the bass we catch are released, but the occasional one makes it to our table.

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Redding officials to review antenna alternatives for emergency responder communications

Redding officials are backing an expedited review of alternative suitable antenna placements for public safety communications upgrades.  During the last Board of Selectmen meeting, representatives from Northeast Communications presented a progress report on the project.  There was also discussion on a proposed 10-year lease from American Tower Company for antenna placement on the Old Redding Road tower, which American Tower Company owns. 

A 22 foot antenna on the tower has been proposed, which would give near 100-percent coverage inside a light wood frame residential structure with a portable radio.  There would be very few areas of spotty coverage.  Any alternate locations would have to provide substantially equivalent coverage as the Old Redding Road location. 

The proposed monthly rent would be $1940, and put in the Selectmen’s operating budget for the town. 

Coverage maps without the antenna on the Old Redding Road tower show significant gaps in coverage along the Route 7 corridor.  The Selectmen say that's problematic due to the high frequency of Fire and EMS calls in that area.

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Second Danbury man arrested for alleged Christmas time theft from grocery store

Another Danbury man has been arrested for allegedly stealing items from a grocery store and starting a fire.  46-year old Julio Perez-Flores was charged with reckless burning, criminal mischief and criminal attempt larceny on Friday.  The Newstimes reports that Perez-Flores and another Danbury man are accused of stealing from Stew Leonard's two days before Christmas. 

Police say Perez-Flores attempted to fix their SUV, which was damaged in a hit-and-run accident before they arrived, while 39-year old George Kourpouanidis filled a shopping cart of nearly $3,400 of seafood and other items.  According to the warrant, store security stopped Kourpouanidis and he took off his hat and jacket before heading into the men's room and lighting several rolls of toilet paper on fire. 

Perez-Flores was also charged with breach of peace, larceny and two counts of conspiracy to commit larceny.

The store was evacuated and the pair met up outside before Kourpouanidis allegedly walked into Walgreens next door and shoplifted an unknown item.  The publication reports that Detectives recognized Kourpouanidis because of his criminal history.  Kourpouanidis was charged with attempted larceny, reckless burning, criminal mischief, breach of peace, larceny, and two counts of conspiracy to commit larceny. 

Police traced the car to Perez-Flores by reviewing evading accident reports. 

Both are due in court on the 26th.

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Still River Greenway to be extended in area of Brookfield Town Hall

The Still River Greenway in Brookfield will be extended in the area of Town Hall.  The Board of Selectmen recently chose one of three presented designs for the 1,500 foot expansion.  The Selectmen are backing the option that extends the path by the upper Ptak field goalpost and along the road. 

Community Development Director Greg Dembowski says the design is compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and meets the state’s requirements.  He notes that the Department of Transportation has created a bidding program where bidders are pre-qualified.  He met with representatives of one firm on the list.  If Brookfield officials don't like the final number, they can go out to bid on their own.

A complete design package is needed for the state to approve the project.  A Department of Energy and Environmental Protection review is also needed.

The town was awarded a $207,000 grant, but that will only cover about half of the project.  The next step is to figure out where the $183,000 balance will come from.  The balance could be lower because money to replace the wooden stairs with concrete ones is already in the budget as a capital item.  Existing Town Hall parking could be used for access from the Senior Center.  A proposed fence is a safety measure along the busy roadway. 

The state grant funding was not initially awarded to Brookfield when the town applied years ago, but another recipient backed out and Brookfield was next on the list.  The grant does not expire so there's no deadline to find the balance.

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Transgender athletes seek to become defendants in lawsuit

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Two transgender high school runners want to become defendants in a federal lawsuit that seeks to block them from participating in girls sports in Connecticut.

Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood would be stripped of the right to run track this spring if a judge rules against a state policy that allows high school athletes to compete as the gender with which they identify, their lawyers argued in a court filing Friday.

Attorneys for three girls filed the lawsuit last week against the state board that governs high school athletics and several school districts.

Miller and Yearwood want a U.S. district judge to delay ruling on a motion that would expedite a temporary injunction against the state policy. Their attorneys indicated to the court they plan to file a motion to intervene in the case this week.

“Plaintiffs should not be allowed to file a lawsuit whose core purpose is to exclude Andraya and Terry from the spring track meets, but then prevent them from participating in the lawsuit by not naming them as parties,” attorney Dan Barrett wrote in Friday’s filing.

Attorneys for the three girls who sued argued Tuesday against any delay and wrote that their lawsuit filed under Title IX, the federal educational law that bans discrimination on the basis of sex, followed the law by focusing on the policy and not naming the two transgender girls as defendants.

“Notably, while there are a great many reported Title IX decisions on the books, Yearwood and Miller cite not a single case in which students whose interests or wishes would be adversely impacted by the requested relief were joined as parties, necessary or otherwise,” the attorneys wrote.

Connecticut is one of 17 states that allowed transgender high school athletes to compete without restrictions in 2019, according to Transathlete.com, which tracks state policies in high school sports across the country.

Eight states had restrictions that make it difficult for transgender athletes to compete while in school, such as requiring athletes to compete under the gender on their birth certificate, or allowing them to participate only after going through sex reassignment procedures or hormone therapies, according to Transathlete.

Both transgender athletes are receiving hormone therapy as treatment for gender dysphoria, and both have hormone levels, “including testosterone levels, circulating in their bodies that are typical for non-transgender girls,” lawyers for Miller and Yearwood said in their filing. “They are recognized as girls by their parents, teachers, teammates, coaches, and community.”

The two seniors have combined to win 15 girls state indoor or outdoor championship races since 2017, according to the lawsuit.

One of the plaintiffs, Chelsea Mitchell, on Friday won the Class S 55-meter state indoor title by edging Terry Miller. She said it was her first win in a head-to-head race.

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Future plans for Fairfield Hills campus to be discussed tonight in Newtown

The third session in a series of community conversations about Fairfield Hills will be held tonight.  Newtown First Selectman Dan Rosenthal encouraged all residents and community stakeholders to take part in the discussion about possible options for future use of the buildings and property. 

Housing could be a possible use, with officials discussing the option of Cochran House being placed onto the tax roll.  But a recent community survey did not show support for housing, with residents wanting to keep the former psychiatric hospital campus as park-like as possible. 

The information session will be in the Newtown High School Lecture Hall, from 7pm to 8:15pm.  It will be followed by the normally scheduled Board of Selectmen meeting, in the auditorium. 

Newtown has spent $38 million to demolish some abandoned buildings and construct new buildings, including the Municipal Center Community Center.  Annual maintenance costs at Fairfield Hills is $200,000.

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New Fairfield firefighters advise residents on CO detector placement

Now that winter is here, the widows are closed and the furnace is on, New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department says it's time to make sure carbon monoxide detectors are working and placed correctly.  Every fuel-burning appliance, including a gas furnace, produces some levels of carbon monoxide. Normally those gasses are carried out of the home, but if something goes wrong it could result in a CO leak.  In order to best detect CO leaks in the home, carbon monoxide detectors should be placed on every level of the home.  New Fairfield firefighters that this will maximize the protection of families from excess levels of carbon monoxide.

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Affordable housing proposal discussed by Ridgefield Board of Selectmen

A controversial affordable housing project before the Ridgefield Planning and Zoning Commission has been discussed by the Board of Selectmen.  First Selectman Rudy Marconi told the Board earlier this month that the developer, Black Oaks LLC, wants to use a semi-abandoned road for the 9-unit complex in the Ridgebury area. 

The segment of Turner Road in the site plan is on town property and the developer would need an easement from the town.  While the Highway Department no longer maintains the segment, it hasn't formally been abandoned through a town meeting. 

Three of the nine units on little over one acre are proposed as affordable under the state’s 8-30g affordable housing law, which exempts projects from minimum lots size. 

Dozens of neighboring residents say there's been significant growth in the area and expressed concern about traffic, pedestrian safety and other quality of life issues.  The Planning and Zoning Commission will hold another hearing on March 3rd.

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Democrat announces candidacy for Newtown state House seat

A Democrat has announced her intention to run for a state legislative seat in Newtown.  Rebekah Harriman-Stites plans to seek the party's nomination for the 106th state House position.  She ran two years ago against Republican incumbent Mitch Bolinsky, who is again seeking reelection.  Harriman-Stites is on the Newtown Board of Education, and is a business owner, non-profit advocate, and community organizer.  She served as vice chair of the Board of Ed, chair of the Policy Committee, and as a member of the District Safety and Security Committee.

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Town Meeting in Redding to authorize state funding for bridge reconstruction

The Station Road bridge in Redding needs to be reconstructed.  Town officials knew about this project last year, but decided not to have another closure as the Long Ridge Road realignment project was going on. 

A low bid has been received, and the would would be funded entirely by state grant money. 

Residents will have to vote to accept the bid and use the Local Capital Improvement Program funding.  First Selectwoman Julia Pemberton says the project does have to go to a special town meeting.  She called it a technicality because the spending won't impact the mill rate or tax payers.  In the form of town government like Redding's, the state requires a resolution from the town meeting authorizing the use of grant funds. 

The special town meeting is at 7pm in Redding Town Hall.

The project would be placed on the calendar for this summer.

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Unconscious man rescued from single car crash in Newtown

A single car crash closed Berkshire Road in Newtown on Sunday afternoon for about two hours.  Firefighters and paramedics responded to a report of a vehicle off the roadway, with the driver unconscious.  A nurse on the scene reported that she was unable to find the pulse of the elderly man.  Police were first on scene and said the 73-year-old was unconscious, but had a pulse.  The car was headed east, but continued straight on a curve and crashed into a stone wall before stopping.  The driver was transported to the hospital.  The road was closed while police conducted an investigation, and while a wrecker responded. Frontier and Eversource were also notified due to damage to a utility pole.

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Discussions in Danbury about safety netting at Rogers Park ball fields

There is some site work underway at Rogers Park in Danbury around the ball fields.  City Councilman Duane Perkins asked Public Works Director Antonio Iadarola if there would be fencing going up along the first and third base lines.  Iadarola says there is some discussion about safety netting, purchased by the Danbury Westerners.  In a similar situation, independent poles were installed at the High School.  He says it can't be tied to the large poles, because they are not designed structurally to accommodate that netting.  Iadarola says the netting is very fine, but it does pick up a large wind load and they shouldn't be attached to the lights.  He says that could result in a tragedy.  Iadarola says it will cost about $40,000 to drill and anchor Class A heavy duty poles, which are 30-feet high.  The netting would be tied to those poles.

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Police find phone of shoplifting suspect at store

A clumsy thief is being sought by Southbury Police.  A shoplifting incident was reported at Stop and Shop yesterday afternoon.  Police say the suspect dropped their phone when they took red bull without paying.  In a Facebook post, Southbury Police say they have the phone and will trade if the red bull is brought to the station.

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Close calls reported at Brookfield emergency responders shut road for accident

There were some close calls in Brookfield for emergency responders at an accident scene this weekend.  Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company says they will close a road, not only for firefighter and police safety, but for the safety of all motorists.  On Saturday night, they had cones and road flares run over due to drivers not following the traffic pattern set out by the fire department. 

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Bethel students raise thousands for Social Services Department

All last week Bethel High School students participated in events to promote kindness.  Events wrapped up on Friday with a check presentation to the Bethel Social Services Department.  The students were able to raise $2,500 through t-shirt sales, penny wars and other activities.  A scholarship was also awarded to a student from the Kindness Committee during an assembly on Friday.

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Newtown Police participate in 'Blue Envelope' program

The Newtown Police Department is participating in the Blue Envelope program, which provides information and guidance to drivers with Autism Spectrum Disorder during their encounters with police.  The program is in compliance with a state law allowing individuals with the disorder a voluntary way to identify themselves to law enforcement and helping to increase awareness by police in these situations. The blue envelope is designed to hold their driver’s license, registration, insurance identification card, and any other documents they would need during an interaction with police.  The outside of the envelope provides information and ways to enhance communication with police.  The envelopes are located in the lobby of the police department.

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Candlewood Company firefighters practice ice rescues

Candlewood Company firefighters recently went out on Candlewood Lake to train on ice and cold water rescue as a follow up to the previous week’s classroom drill on the subject. In order to be able to rescue a person that has fallen into a cold or frozen body of water, Company officials say they must be ready to use ropes and rigging for tethering the rescuers to shore, donning cold water rescue suits, and use of Marsars ice rescue sled.  The firefighters regularly train on these scenarios since Candlewood Lake and other smaller inland bodies of water in Brookfield become popular during the winter for activities like fishing or skating.

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Prospector Theater to open second location

The Prospector Theater is set to open a second location in Wilton. 

According to the announcement, the boutique version of the original Ridgefield location will open in the Bow Tie Cinemas in the River Park shopping center.  The Prospector Wilton will be a four screen, nonprofit premium movie theater, employing adults with disabilities in an integrated work environment. 

Renovations are expected to begin in September, with an opening near the end of next year.  

There is a national unemployment epidemic for adults with disabilities, with estimates as high as 80% unemployment rate, according to The Prospector Theater.  Over its five years of operation, the Prospector has employed over 250 Prospects, logging more than 600,000 hours of employment as they break down outdated stereotypes about disabilities, build empathy, and prove that “working is working.”

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Weekend fire extinguished at Bethel Fire Chief's home

One person was hospitalized in a weekend fire in Bethel.  Stony Hill and Bethel Volunteer Fire Companies responded to Reservoir Street on a report of fire in the walls. 

Responding units soon learned it was the home of Bethel Fire Chief Scott Murphy. 

Units encountered heavy fire showing from the rear porch and quickly knocked down the flames to stop the spread to the rest of the home.  Firefighters opened up the walls to gain access to affected areas and remained on scene for an extended period of time. 

One resident was taken to the hospital with non-life threatening injuries. 

Danbury Fire Department provided mutual aid on scene while Brookfield covered the Stony Hill station and handled a carbon monoxide call while they were out.  The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

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Reward increases for information leading to arrest of ATV driver that killed dog

A reward is growing for information that leads police to an ATV rider who struck and killed a dog in Danbury.  The O'Rourke family initially said there would be a $500 reward, but neighbors and others have contributed through a GoFundMe page called Justice for Dusty.  In two days, 79 people have donated more than $5,700.  The 4-year-old husky-lab mix was killed Wednesday when an ATV rider lost control and hit her in the family's Jackson Drive yard.   Family members have said they understand accidents happen, but that the driver should not have left and should take responsibility.

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Family of combat veteran wants standardized reentry program

NEW LONDON, Conn. (AP) — The family of a Marine Corps veteran who died last year wants the government to develop a standardized reentry program for soldiers returning from combat before they leave the military.

Family members of Tyler Reeb, a decorated Marine who grew up in New Canaan, Connecticut, have been talking with state and federal lawmakers about how such a program is needed to help veterans fully reintegrate into civilian life, The Day reported.

Tyler Reeb killed himself in October at his home in Richmond, Virginia. He was 34.

“We transform civilians into soldiers,” said Tyler Reeb’s uncle, Chris Reeb, of Weston, Connecticut. “We have to transform these soldiers back to civilians.”

Tyler Reeb did three overseas combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. He became a sniper, led more than 100 combat missions and was honorably discharged in 2015 just after being promoted to staff sergeant.

Chris Reeb and his nephew’s other family members, including his parents, Jaymie and Michael Reeb, want the standardized reentry program to take place before service members leave the military. It would be an analogous counterpart to Marine Boot Camp, and take just as long — 13 weeks.

The military provides guidance to service members before they return to civilian life, but it’s not enough, said Chris Reeb.

Tyler stayed with his uncle for about six months while waiting for a new job to start with the State Department after he left the Marine Corps. Chris Reeb said that he checked in with his nephew about whether he had thoughts of harming himself, and that Tyler said he didn’t and would never take that path.

“And yet I could tell you that he slept with a loaded pistol under his pillow every night,” Reeb said, “They never turn off. They’re always on, always prepared.”

Reeb said that in hindsight there were maybe other signs that his nephew wasn’t doing as well as he said he was. Tyler drank heavily, Chris Reeb said, but never missed work or lagged on his responsibilities.

“We all missed this and the reality of it is, there’s got to be a ton of other people out there like this,” he said.

Reeb said the family is soliciting input on how to structure the reentry program and what should be included but know that participants should be provided with strategies and resources to address and cope with post-traumatic stress.

Chris Reeb attended the State of the Union address this month as a guest of Democratic U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal.

“I think we have people’s ears,” Reeb said, of the family’s effort to create the reentry program. “We have to stay in their ears.”

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Putnam County hires new Director of Emergency Medical Services

Putnam County’s Bureau of Emergency Services has hired a new Director of Emergency Medical Services.  Casey Quake, who has spent more than a decade as a paramedic, educator and manager, has been working with EMStar Ambulance in Putnam County for the past three years. In addition to his work as a field paramedic, Quake is a faculty member for the National Association of EMS Educators and has traveled across the country teaching other professionals advanced life-saving skills.  In his new position, Quake will be responsible for the oversight of county EMS agencies and EMS education programs. 

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United Way receives grant to help ALICE families

A $10,000 grant to support the working poor has been awarded to the United Way of Western Connecticut. The grant from the Genworth Foundation will help the United Way work with the so-called ALICE population, or those who are “asset-limited, income-constrained and employed.”  United Way interim president Isabel Almeida says people who work hard should be able to serve healthy food to their families, and that their children should have the same access to quality care and educational activities that all children have.  The grant will go to the ALICE Enrichment Fund, which provides families with $300 per child per year to pay for out-of-school activities.  Some funding will also go toward a discount card and mobile app ALICE households use to pay for healthy food.

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Man wanted for Conn. hit & run arrested in Patterson, NY

A man wanted for a hit and run accident in Connecticut that caused serious injury or death has been arrested in Patterson.  The Putnam County Sheriff's Office say 32-year old Marcellus Ferrell, of Patterson, is being held at Putnam County Correctional Facility to await pick up by the Connecticut State Police.  Troopers did not provide details about the accident he is wanted for.  A Sheriff's Deputy on patrol last Saturday saw a traffic violation on Route 292 and stopped the car.  Ferrell was issued a traffic ticket and arraigned as a Fugitive from Justice on the Connecticut Warrant.  He agreed to be extradited to Connecticut.  Additionally, a check of the vehicle’s registration revealed a suspension for an insurance lapse

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Danbury Library to host Aging Mastery Program

Danbury Library will be hosting an Aging Mastery Program later this month.  The educational classes are about what to expect after age 55, and how to make small changes that can have lasting effects on a person’s health and economic security.  The 10 session program is free and features a graduation ceremony on week 11 sponsored by the Friends of the Danbury Library.  The program is coordinated and facilitated by the Regional YMCA of Western Connecticut.  Topics of the 10 sessions include navigating longer lives, physical activity, sleep, healthy eating and hydration, financial fitness, medication management, advanced planning, healthy relationships, falls prevention, and community engagement.  Classes will start on February 27 th at the Library. Registration is required by February 24th.

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Local lawmaker wants to make getting absentee ballots easier

A local lawmaker plans to try again to get a bill passed that would allow Connecticut voters to apply for an absentee ballot through the Secretary of State's secure online portal.  Ridgefield Senator Will Haskell says paper ballots would still be sent through the mail in order to maintain election integrity.  But he says the process could be simpler for students, seniors and anyone else who isn't able to vote in person on Election Day.  Voters in Connecticut already have the ability to register to vote online and says the archaic process should continue to be streamlined.

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Women's Center urges people to 'Chalk about Love' this Valentine's Day

The Women's Center of Greater Danbury says Valentine's Day is the perfect day to spread awareness about teen dating abuse and healthy relationships at schools and in the community.  They've dubbed today Chalk about Love.  The Women's Center is hoping area residents will take to the sidewalks with chalk and start the conversation. Possible themes include messages to survivors, characteristics of healthy and unhealthy relationships, statistics, and local resources. Don't February is teen dating violence awareness month.

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New Fairfield High School sophomore named Human Rights Campaign Foundation Youth Ambassadors

A New Fairfield High School sophomore has been named a member of the 2020 class of Human Rights Campaign Foundation Youth Ambassadors.  15-year old Gia Parr will join 12 other LGBTQ advocates across the country in the program.  Parr was the first to come out as transgender at her middle school after transitioning from male to female before the start of eighth grade. To let her classmates know, she and her parents sent a letter to the entire middle school.  She is part of The GenderCool Project, a national storytelling campaign that focuses on who transgender youth are rather than what they are.  Parr is a founding member of her middle school’s GSA club and a member of the high school Peace Project.

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Chipotle looking to demolish, replace old Friendly's building

Chipotle is looking to demolish the old Friendly's restaurant and build a new structure there.  Attorney Tom Beecher spoke on behalf of the applicant during a recent Planning Commission meeting.  Chipotle is seeking a special exception for a drive thru.  Beecher says it's not a typical drive thru though as there is no separate menu board or first stop to place the order.  Patrons will text and prepay for their order; it's just going to be a pick up window. 

Plans call for placing the new building slightly to the west to make better sense of vehicle circulation. 

While this would only a pick up window, the Commission is considering a drive thru in general.  If Chipotle leaves, someone else could coming in with a full service drive thru that has an order board, an order window and a pick up window. 

There was some concern about egress at proposed window and if there is adequate site distance for cars coming from Chili's and the hotel because of the odd angle. 

After construction, the signalized intersection will experience more traffic.  But proponents say it was a restaurant in the past and there was more traffic then too.  Accident data for Newtown Road from the intersection from Eagle Road to the driveway showed 80 accidents between 2016 and 2019.  Most were rear-end collisions because of drivers stopped waiting to make a left-hand turn in a thru-lane.  There are only designated turn lanes at the signalized intersections. 

Traffic expert Michael Galante says a study was done by the City and the state several years ago about Newtown Road traffic flow, safety and congestion.  There's been talk of a center median and eliminating left turns to cut down on what he called turning movement conflicts.

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New Milford activates Cold Weather Protocol

Due to predicted cold weather entering the area today with lows tonight projected around zero degrees, New Milford plans to open warming shelters.  Starting at noon, until noon tomorrow, the town's Severe Cold Weather protocol will be in place.  The library will act as the warming shelter. Loaves and Fishes will then be the shelter from 4:30pm to 8:30pm.  First Congregational Church will be open 8:30pm through 6am Saturday.  The Community Emergency Response Team will open 25 Church St from 6am and remain open until 9am tomorrow, when the Library reopens.

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Eversource conducting aerial inspection of equipment

Eversource will again be conducting aerial inspections of high-voltage electrical equipment on rights of way throughout the Greater Danbury area. This semiannual inspection is part of the company’s ongoing effort to provide reliable electric service.  The work involves the use of a helicopter equipped with heat-sensing, infrared scanning technology which can detect potential equipment issues before they occur.  The aerial inspections start today and continue through February 28th. Weather permitting, flights will take place from 8am to 4pm in a blue and silver helicopter, tail # N1431W.

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Putnam County Executive speaking out against proposed Medicaid funding changes

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell is speaking out against New York Governor's proposed Medicaid funding changes.  She is concerned about the impact on residents. 

Governor Cuomo wants the state’s 62 counties to contribute an additional $150 million to pay for Medicaid’s skyrocketing costs. The counties enroll Medicaid recipients, but don’t set the eligibility guidelines. 

Odell says Putnam County will always make sure the most vulnerable citizens get the services they need, but will have to make other cuts to the budget because of it.  In Putnam County, Medicaid costs have risen by $4 million from 2018 to 2019. 

Before 2015 in Putnam County, about 5,000 residents were enrolled in Medicaid. By July, 2019 the county had 13,000 Medicaid recipients. 

In 2012, to help counties and local governments adhere to the 2% property tax cap, Governor Cuomo and State Lawmakers enacted a zero growth Medicaid cap.  Odell says the cap helped counties stabilize and, in several cases, reduce county property tax rate levies.

Odell says the State Assembly should close loopholes in eligibility guidelines.  She notes that the Putnam County  Department of Social Services brought in consultants a few years ago to flag suspected fraud.  They found that some wealthy residents took out  reverse mortgages on expensive homes, writing off investments as losses and hiding assets in untouchable retirement accounts in order to qualify for Medicaid.  She wants that loophole closed.

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Local lawmaker introduces bill about sexual misconduct on college campuses

"An Act Concerning Sexual Misconduct on College Campuses" has been introduced in Connecticut.  Higher Education Committee member Ridgefield state Senator Will Haskell says the bipartisan bill has two key components.  It proposes a climate survey concerning sexual misconduct on college campuses, given what he says is the chronic under-reporting of sexual violence.  Haskell says this will allow policymakers to better understand the environment on campuses.  The bill would also work to protect students who report sexual assault, stalking or violence to a college or university.  It ensures an institution could not pursue disciplinary action associated with drinking, drug use or other violations if a student comes forward to report a sexual assault.

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Newtown families in lawsuit get access to shooter's computer

WATERBURY, Conn. (AP) — Families of those killed in the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting will have access to the shooter’s computer as part of their lawsuit against gun maker Remington.

A state Superior Court judge in Waterbury, Connecticut, signed off on a stipulated agreement Thursday between the families and Remington that will allow a forensic computer expert to examine the computer and present digital images of his findings to both sides.

The families are looking for evidence of the gunman's exposure to advertisements for weapons.

Remington, based in Madison, North Carolina, is accused of violating the Connecticut Unfair Trade Practices Act by marketing its Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle to civilians.

The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Joshua Koskoff, has accused the company of targeting younger, at-risk males through “militaristic marketing and astute product placement in violent first-person shooter games.”

One of Remington’s ads features the rifle against a plain backdrop and the phrase: “Consider Your Man Card Reissued.”

The AR-15′s design is based on the military M-16. There are now an estimated 16 million AR-platform long guns in the U.S.

The lawsuit is expected to go to trial in 2021.

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ATV operator strikes, kills dog in hit & run

Danbury Police are looking for the driver of a  “quad” type ATV who struck and killed a dog last night.  The driver fled the area of Jackson Drive after hitting the dog around 8pm.  Police say the investigation so far indicates that the operator of the quad likely lives in the general area, as residents say trails connecting Jackson Drive, Tamanny Trail, and Great Plain Road are frequently used by ATVs and dirt bikes.  Anyone who saw a quad being operated in those areas during the approximate timeframe is asked to contact Officer Michael Weaver at m.weaver@danbury-ct.gov.

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New Brookfield firefighters practice driving, parking fire apparatus

Over the last few weeks, newer firefighters from Candlewood Company and Brookfield Volunteer Fire Department have spent their mornings training how to operated the fire apparatus on a static course laid out at Huckleberry Hill Elementary School.  They  practiced maneuvers like parallel parking and 'alley docking' in a simulated driveway to start to becoming proficient in driving these more than 30 foot long vehicles. This is the first part in a series of training they must go through before they start driving and operating apparatus to and at emergency scenes.

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Kushner qualifies for Public Campaign Financing

State Senator Julie Kushner reached the qualification threshold for public financing as she seeks reelection to a second term.  With the small dollar contributions. Kushner says she'll be able to fund her campaign without taking money from big businesses or special interest groups.  More than 85% of contributions came from Danbury, Bethel, Sherman and New Fairfield the towns that comprise the 24th district.

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Girls sue to block participation of transgender athletes

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The families of three female high school runners filed a federal lawsuit Wednesday seeking to block transgender athletes in Connecticut from participating in girls sports.

Selina Soule, a senior at Glastonbury High School, Chelsea Mitchell, a senior at Canton High School and Alanna Smith, a sophomore at Danbury High School are represented by the conservative nonprofit organization Alliance Defending Freedom. They argue that allowing athletes with male anatomy to compete has deprived them of track titles and scholarship opportunities.

“Mentally and physically, we know the outcome before the race even starts,” said Smith, who is the daughter of former Major League pitcher Lee Smith. “That biological unfairness doesn’t go away because of what someone believes about gender identity. All girls deserve the chance to compete on a level playing field.”

(Photo: AP)

The lawsuit was filed against the Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference and the boards of education in Bloomfield, Cromwell, Glastonbury, Canton and Danbury.

“Forcing girls to be spectators in their own sports is completely at odds with Title IX, a federal law designed to create equal opportunities for women in education and athletics,” attorney Christiana Holcomb said. “Connecticut’s policy violates that law and reverses nearly 50 years of advances for women.”

The Connecticut Association of Schools-Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference says its policy follows a state anti-discrimination law that says students must be treated in school by the gender with which they identify and the group believes the policy is “appropriate under both state and federal law.”

The lawsuit follows a Title IX complaint filed last June by the girls’ families and the Alliance Defending Freedom with the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights, which is investigating the policy.

The lawsuit centers on two transgender sprinters, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, who have frequently outperformed their cisgender competitors.

The two seniors have combined to win 15 girls state indoor or outdoor championship races since 2017, according to the lawsuit.

The three plaintiffs have competed directly against them, almost always losing to Miller and usually behind Yearwood. Mitchell finished third in the 2019 state championship in the girls 55-meter indoor track competition behind Miller and Yearwood.

“Our dream is not to come in second or third place, but to win fair and square,” Mitchell said. “All we’re asking for is a fair chance.”

Yearwood, a senior at Cromwell High School, and Miller, a senior at Bloomfield High School, issued statements vehemently defending their right to run in girls events. 

“I have faced discrimination in every aspect of my life and I no longer want to remain silent,” Miller said. “I am a girl and I am a runner. I participate in athletics just like my peers to excel, find community, and meaning in my life. It is both unfair and painful that my victories have to be attacked and my hard work ignored.”

Yearwood said she also is a girl and has been hurt by the efforts to “tear down my successes.”

“I will never stop being me!” she said in her statement. “I will never stop running! I hope that the next generation of trans youth doesn’t have to fight the fights that I have. I hope they can be celebrated when they succeed not demonized. For the next generation, I run for you!”

The American Civil Liberties Union said it will represent the transgender teens and defend the Connecticut policy in court. Attorney Chase Strangio, deputy director for Trans Justice with the ACLU LGBT & HIV Project, said transgender girls also are protected by Title IX.

“The idea that the law only protects the individuals with XX chromosomes as compared to individuals with XY chromosomes is found nowhere in the legislative history of Title IX, in any implementing regulation or in any other aspect of the interpretation of Title IX over the last 50 years by the courts,” he said.

The attorneys for Alliance Defending Freedom is asking the court to prevent the transgender girls from competing while the lawsuit moves forward. No hearing date on that request had been scheduled Wednesday, the day before the state’s indoor track championships begin.

Connecticut is one of 17 states that allowed transgender high school athletes to compete without restrictions in 2019, according to Transathlete.com, which tracks state policies in high school sports across the country. Eight states had restrictions that make it difficult for transgender athletes to compete while in school, such requiring athletes to compete under the gender on their birth certificate, or allowing them to participate only after going through sex reassignment procedures or hormone therapies, according to Transathlete.

Yearwood and Miller have said they are still in the process of transitioning but have declined to provide details.

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Remains found behind Patterson diner ID'd as missing Danbury woman

Dental records have confirmed the identity of the remains found earlier this month as that of a missing Danbury woman.  The Putnam County Sheriff's Office reports that the cause of death for 53-year old LaelCira DeLima is still under investigation.  Danbury Police say there is no indication of foul play.  DeLima went missing in October 2017.   She was last seen by family leaving her home and driving a red Honda.  On February 1st, a hunter scouting out a new area behind Putnam Diner off Route 22 in Patterson, came across a human skull. After he called police, investigators found more skeletal remains and several articles of clothing.  DeLima's vehicle was located two weeks after she disappeared.  It was unoccupied in the diner’s rear parking lot.  Employees said the car was parked there for some time before they called police. 

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New York State ban single-use plastic bags starts March 1

It’s almost time for Putnam County shoppers to remember to bring their own reusable bags with them.  County Executive MaryEllen Odell says starting March 1st, a New York State law will ban single-use plastic bags.  There are some exemptions from the ban, including dry cleaning bags, newspaper delivery bags and bags used by customers to package fruits, vegetables or other loose items. Putnam County Department of Health solid waste management program coordinator Jane Meunier says the goal is to embrace recycling initiatives such as this.  She says the inconvenience of bringing reusable bags for shopping cannot compare to the devastation that single-use plastic bags cause to the environment – and specifically Putnam County.

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Sandy Hook families streamline wrongful death suit against Remington

Ahead of today's status conference in court, the families suing Remington Arms over the shooting at Sandy Hook School have streamlined their wrongful death case.  Hearst Connecticut Media reports that the complaint filed yesterday now focuses on the  gunmaker’s marketing and the claim that it violated Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act. 

The complaint no longer includes the argument that tried to exploit a loophole in a federal law that shields the gun industry from most liability when its weapons are misused.  The new complaint calls Remington’s AR-15 marketing “unethical, immoral, unscrupulous, oppressive, and reckless.” 

The argument that Remington negligently entrusted a military weapon to the civilian market was stuck down in 2016 by Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis, who dismissed the families’ lawsuit.  The state Supreme Court affirmed Bellis’ negligent entrustment decision, but reversed the dismissal on the CUTPA claim.  The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Remington’s appeal of the Connecticut Supreme Court’s ruling. 

The case was returned to Bellis in state Superior Court.  A 2021 trial is planned.

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Towels catch fire behind Danbury businesses

Danbury firefighters responded to a blaze on Lake Avenue yesterday afternoon.  Firefighters got a report of smoke from behind the building which houses Stanziato’s Wood Fired Pizza and El Coyote Bar & Restaurant.  A pile of towels had caught fire and was extinguished before firefighters arrived.  But it was still smoldering and there was a concern because of nearby propane tanks and the businesses called 911.  No injuries were reported.

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Sandy Hook Promise prepares for new 'Say Something' week

Sandy Hook Promise says at the end of their last Say Something Week, a high school student in Illinois found herself confronted with the very situation she had spent all week learning about: She opened her phone and saw a former classmate holding a gun in a Snapchat photo. Because of the trainings provided through Sandy Hook Promise, organization officials say she felt empowered to Say Something to a trusted adult, and a potential tragedy was averted.  During the week of March 2nd through 6th, this program will teach thousands more middle and high school kids that they have the power to prevent tragedies and save lives by learning the warning signs of gun violence and self-harm and by saying something to a trusted adult.

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Brookfield CARES releases survey findings on student input on risky behavior

Student input on risky behavior has been presented to the Brookfield Board of Selectmen.  Alcohol is still the most commonly used drug among secondary students, though usage has dropped among high school seniors.  

Brookfield CARES has administered the survey now for 5 years.  All students in 7th through 12th grades were given  the survey in November.  The Search Institute’s Student Attitudes and Behaviors Survey also looks at perceptions of risks, and strengths and weaknesses within the schools and surrounding community.

Ron Jaffe, with Brookfield CARES, noted that about 44 percent of 12th graders have used alcohol in the last 30 days, down from the 54 percent reported in 2016. Overall 24 percent of high school students and 5 percent of seventh graders used alcohol. 

About 26 percent of students surveyed reported being frequently depressed or having attempted suicide. About 17 percent of seventh graders have felt this and about 33 percent of 12th graders. 

The survey showed students viewpoint on marijuana shifted.  2 percent of middle school students and 24 percent of high school students saying smoking marijuana wouldn’t be wrong.  This is the first time the survey included questions on vaping.  2.1 percent of middle school students had vaped in the past 30 days and 17.8 percent of high school students saying they vaped in that time frame.

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Southbury Police warn of new twist in 'Grandparent Scam'

The Southbury Police Department is raising awareness of scams circulating in neighboring states.  over the last several weeks, law enforcement agencies have received reports of so-called “grandparent” scams defrauding elderly victims out of several thousand dollars. 

Southbury Police have investigated similar scams in the past. 

Scammers are contacting victims by phone and are told that a family member needs bail money resulting from a fictitious claim that the family member was arrested, usually out of state. In some instances, suspects have identified themselves with true names of local police officers to gain credibility. 

Although this is a common scam, the suspects in the recent cases tell victims that they will send a courier to pick up the money at the victim’s residence or at a location nearby.  Southbury Police say no law enforcement agency will send a courier for bond money and will not ask for gift cards that can be redeemed over the phone to bond someone out.  Anyone who receives a suspicious request similar to this, is asked to contact Southbury Police before doing anything.

If a person is arrested, Southbury Police say the only way to bond them out is to do so in person at the police department. 

Some victims have made several incremental drops to the suspects. Phone numbers provided by suspects have not returned any credible information. To date, the suspects have accumulated over $100,000.00 from victims. 

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Danbury Police participate in DMV-sponsored envelop program

The Danbury Police Department is providing envelops for drivers with special needs as part of a program designed to enhance communication between the police and the driver.  A person on the autism spectrum, or someone who is deaf or hard of hearing, can place their insurance card, registration and driver license in it, so they can hand it to the officer during a traffic stop. On the outside of the envelope are helpful tips and instructions on how the driver and officer can successfully communicate with each other.  The program is sponsored by the state Department of Motor Vehicles and the Connecticut Police Chiefs Association.

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Teacher unions: Children terrified by active shooter drills

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The nation’s two largest teachers unions want schools to revise or eliminate active shooter drills, asserting Tuesday that they can harm students’ mental health and that there are better ways to prepare for the possibility of a school shooting.

The American Federation of Teachers and National Education Association joined with the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund in calling for an end to unannounced drills or drills that simulate gun violence.

“Everywhere I travel, I hear from parents and educators about active shooter drills terrifying students, leaving them unable to concentrate in the classroom and unable to sleep at night,” said Lily Eskelsen Garcia, president of the National Education Association. “So traumatizing students as we work to keep students safe from gun violence is not the answer. That is why if schools are going to do drills, they need to take steps to ensure the drills do more good than harm.”

The report released Tuesday recommends schools concentrate on training teachers to respond to an active shooter incident rather than drilling students.

It also issued guidelines for schools that decide to use drills. Those include never simulating an actual shooting; giving parents, educators and students advance notice of any drill; working with mental health officials to create age-appropriate and trauma-informed drills; and tracking the effects of drills.

About 95% of schools drilled students on lockdown procedures in the 2015-16 school year, according to a survey by the National Center for Education Statistics. 

“In Indiana they were shooting teachers with rubber pellets so they would feel the adrenaline of what a school shooting would feel like,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, which is part of Everytown. “In California recently, a superintendent hired a stranger to wear a mask to rattle the doors of classrooms without letting faculty and students know. We’ve seen students asked to pretend to be victims and lie down using fake blood in the hallway.”

Jean-Paul Guilbault, the chief executive of the Alice Training Institute, which runs active shooter drills, said they are effective when done appropriately. He said his company never runs surprise drills but believes that simulating an event is the best way to prepare for one “and allow students to practice their options, whether that be lockdown or evacuation.”

“According to a recent study conducted by The U.S. Secret Service, most school shootings last for two minutes or less, and nearly half of the events studied ended within one minute,” he said in a written statement. “That means it is up to us to keep ourselves safe for those seconds that will feel as slow as a lifetime. We drill so everyone has a plan when faced with danger, to give people a chance at survival.”

But Abbey Clements, who was teaching second grade at the Sandy Hook school in Newtown when a gunman killed 26 people in 2012, said she doesn’t believe a drill would have saved lives there.

“Our students knew what to do,” said Clements, who now teaches at another elementary school in town. “We taught them what to do in an emergency. We knew evacuation routes and where a safe spot was in the room, where nobody could see inside. But frightening students with some type of active drill, I think that is barbaric. There is no way you could possibly be prepared for the infinite number of ways that a shooting could go down with these weapons of war.”

Clements, an active member of Moms Demand Action, said it breaks her heart when she hears stories like the one about a little girl who refused to wear light-up shoes after a drill, because she was told it could make her an easier target.

“I’ve got kids at the elementary school level who tell me they have to keep a cell phone on them at all times, just in case,” she said. “It should not be like that.”

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Himes wants Weir Farm redesignated as National Historical Park

Weir Farm National Historical Site in Wilton could be redesignated as a National Historical Park.  4th District Congressman Jim Himes and Connecticut's two U.S. Senators have introduced a resolution with the proposed change.  They say it will better represent Weir’s complex cultural, natural and recreational resources to the public.

This redesignation will also reflect the increased visitation, collaboration with partners, and public programming since the park was restored and reopened in 2014. 

The site designation in 1990 focused on preserving a limited part of the Weir property. Now, the vast holdings include more than 16 historical buildings spread out over 75 acres including a collection of American art, orchards, trails, and Weir’s Pond. 

In 2020, the site will represent Connecticut on the U.S. Mint’s America the Beautiful Quarter, which they say will bring additional public attention to Weir Farm. 

Senator Chris Murphy says Weir Farm is a place where people can learn about artist J. Alden Weir’s work in the impressionist movement and is home to 75 acres used by landscape artists today. These historic grounds have witnessed an uptick in visitors, and more public programming with partners since it was restored in 2014.

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Public hearing will continue in Bethel on proposed wood recycling facility expansion

A public hearing was continued in Bethel last night by the Planning and Zoning Commission on a proposed wood recycling facility expansion.  The application from All Regional Recyclers of Wood calls for the facility to collect construction debris and other material at its Wooster Street facility from small, local contractors.  Residents continued to be outspoken about the potential for large truck traffic through their neighborhood.  About 28 trucks per day currently enter and exit the site, and the applicant expects about 10 more truck trips per day.  An attorney for the applicant says the facility would not accept household waste and it's not a transfer station.  Opponents say, under state law, it would be permitted to collect tires, furniture, scrap metals and cardboard--not related to construction.

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Ridgefield officials consider ordinance to save historic structures

Ridgefield officials are considering a new local law in order to save historic structures.  The demolition delay ordinance will be discussed during a town meeting on March 4th.  It would give conservationists 90 days to save a historic building built before 1950 or is otherwise historically, architecturally or culturally significant. 

The intent is to give time for preservationists to lobby the owner, raise money and other activities to save the structure. 

An objection to the demolition of a significant structure, with support of The Ridgefield Historic District Commission or The Ridgefield Historical Society, would trigger the 90 day delay on a demolition permit. 

The Ridgefield Press reports that the so-called “pink house” in Ridgebury, one of oldest houses in Ridgefield, was demolished despite a plan to move it to the Ridgebury Congregational Church’s property.  A 1760s house at Gilbert and New Streets was also recently torn down for an apartment building project. 

The Board of Selectmen would have to first approve the proposed ordinance and then send it to a town meeting.  The Planning and Zoning Commission back the proposal.

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New Fairfield Board of Ed proposes budget

The New Fairfield Board of Education has approved a proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.  The $44.3 million is a 3.27 percent increase over the current year.  It includes new debt service for the two school building projects and an additional physical education teacher.  The proposal eliminates a proposed full-time security director position, funding to update the district's website, and vaping sensors.  The New Fairfield Board of Finance will next go through the budget and hold a public hearing next month.

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More questions raised by Danbury City Council members about proposed supportive housing bid

There were more questions at the most recent Danbury City Council meeting about a proposed bid for permanent supportive housing on Elm Street.

Council Minority Leader Paul Rotello says he is on board with supportive housing, but state his constituents in the 6th Ward, particularly the Spring Street area, have reached a point where they feel the City is not responding to their concerns.  The Dorothy Day shelter is located on Spring Street.  The City of Danbury is currently in court with the soup kitchen because they've lacked a valid permit to operate for more than 30 years.

While transitional housing has a time limit, permanent supportive housing does not have a limit for how long someone can live there.  This proposal is not emergency sheltering services, but does include up to 6 shelter beds.  Councilman Ben Chianese expressed a concern with density.  Health Director Lisa Morrissey says a single family home on the property could be demolished to make room for parking.  No word on when a bid winner will be announced.

Chianese noted that another bidder could put 20 shelter beds in there, because it would be permittable as a special exception in that zone.  He called the Department of Health's proposal for supportive housing the lesser of two evils.

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Southbury Police investigating alleged shoplifting from grocery store

Southbury Police are attempting to identify two individuals that may have information about a larceny from Stop & Shop that occurred on Sunday morning. Surveillance photos show the two men in question.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Officer Morrone at the Southbury Police Department at (203) 264-5912 and refer to Case# 20-00063169. All calls will be kept confidential.

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Wilton Police participate in 'Blue Envelope Program'

The Wilton Police Department is participating in the Blue Envelope Program. The program was created for drivers who are on the autism spectrum. The Blue Envelope, which the person may place a license, registration and insurance card in, contains information to enhance communication between the police and a person with autism.  In the event of a motor vehicle stop or crash, drivers can present the Blue Envelope to officers which will let them know the driver is on the autism spectrum.  Envelopes are available at the Wilton Police Department upon request from the Dispatchers.

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Edmond Town Hall theater closed until Friday

Edmond Town Hall theater will be closed the next few days for a small renovation project.  The movie projector upgrade will improve resolution, brightness, and sound for all movies and will make it possible to project films with a 4K resolution, providing more image detail.  The crew will be on site today through Thursday to install the projector.  All theater activities, including movies will pause until Friday, in time for the midwinter school break to start.

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Proposed Director of Security for Ridgefield Schools draws concern

Concerns are being voiced by some members of the Ridgefield Board of Selectmen over a proposed Director of Security for the School District.  The new administrative position would cost $85,000.  The Ridgefield Press reports that the Selectmen make a “non-binding recommendation” about the Board of Ed budget to the Board of Finance.  Those members then send final school and town budget proposals to voters during a referendum. Police Chief Jeff Kreitz told the Selectmen that the job done by the department’s school resource officers go through an audit with state police.

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Conn. Education Commissioner visits DHS at request of Danbury lawmakers

State Department of Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona and members of the agency took a tour of Danbury High School last week.  Cardona was invited by the bipartisan Danbury state legislative delegation to tour the schools and discuss overcrowding issues, and long standing state underfunding. 

Cardona was able to meet with students and learn about the programs happening at DHS, like the Early College Opportunity with Naugatuck Valley Community College.  After getting a firsthand look, the Education Department met with Superintendent Dr. Sal Pascarella, Principal Dan Donovan, Mayor Mark Boughton and the legislators to discuss K-12 issues affecting Danbury Public Schools.

(Photo: Conn. Dept. of Education)

State Representative David Arconti says it was productive meeting.  He noted that Danbury does get a $2.5 million increase in ECS funding, according to the Governor's proposed budget adjustments.  The Danbury delegation argues that more state funding is needed for increased enrollment, more English Language Learners and higher Special Education costs. 

Over the past decade, Danbury has experienced a 17-percent enrollment increase.  The district serves over 11,000 students and over 3,00 of those students attend Danbury High School.  There's been a 10-percent enrollment increase over the last 5 years alone.  This year, Danbury's enrollment was estimated to go up by 2.8 percent, but increased by 4 percent.

58-percent of all district students quality for free or reduced price lunch, and over 26-percent come from homes where English is a second language.

According to Danbury Public Schools facilities' capacity numbers, 7 elementary schools, two middle schools and the high school are all currently operating at over 100 percent capacity.

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Danbury approves loan for Richter Park Authority

The Danbury City Council has approved a cash advance of up to $150,000 for the Richter Park Authority. The line of credit is meant to address their temporary cash flow needs during the off season. Danbury Finance Director David St Hilaire says the poor weather conditions shortened this past season and it negatively affected their reserve cash levels. Any amount borrowed during the fiscal year must  be repaid by the end of the same fiscal year.  Any outstanding balance on the line of credit will accrue interest at a 2.5 percent rate.  The City Council approved a $1.5 million refinancing loan for 15 years at a 2.5 percent interest rate in November 2015.  Another $600,000 was approved last year for the driving range project.  St Hilaire says the range, completed in April, is bringing in residual benefits for Richter Park operations.  The current loan balance is $1.7 million.  All payments have been made on time.

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Human skull found behind Putnam Diner in Patterson

A human skull has been found behind the Putnam Diner on Route 22 in Patterson.  A hunter called the Putnam County Sheriff's Office about the remains.  The Daily Freeman reports that investigators are looking into the possibility that the discovery could answer questions about the disappearance of 53-year old Lealcria DeLima of Danbury, who went missing in October 2017.  She was last seen by family leaving her home and driving a red Honda, which was located two weeks later unoccupied in the diner’s rear parking lot.  Employees said the car was parked there for some time before they called police.  Sheriff Robert Langley notified Danbury Police about the skeletal remains and both agencies are involved in the investigation.

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Newtown's Bike and Trails Committee awarded National Parks Service grant

Newtown's Bike and Trails Committee has been awarded a National Parks Service grant for services in-kind.  Parks staff with experience in trail planning, design, and implementation are coming to work with the committee to help move trail projects in Newtown forward. 

The grant focuses on Al's Trail restoration and development and will also include working on developing a broader trail vision for the town, including developing a new network of trails, and a possible greenway.  An overarching plan would restore the entire 10.7 miles of Al’s Trail and would include eventual use of this trail as the main artery of a larger trail network in Newtown.  There are schools, residential developments, parks, open spaces, a community center, and a village center along the trail that could be connected to the trail, giving residents better access to open spaces and recreational activities. 

The committee wants to look into the feasibility of turning the southern section of Al's Trail between Sandy Hook Village and Fairfield Hills into a multi-use, recreational greenway that would have greater use and accessibility than the current footpath. 

The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection's definition of "Greenway" means a corridor of open space that (1) may protect natural resources, preserve scenic landscapes and historical resources or offer opportunities for recreation or nonmotorized transportation, (2) may connect existing protected areas and provide access to the outdoors, (3) may be located along a defining natural feature, such as a waterway, along a man-made corridor, including an unused right-of-way, traditional trail routes or historic barge canals or (4) may be a greenspace along a highway or around a village.

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16 Connecticut schools awarded RecycleCT School Grants

16 Connecticut schools have been awarded RecycleCT School Grants to promote the importance of recycling.  The RecycleCT Foundation received 24 applications. The Foundation also encourages people, government, businesses and organizations to adopt recycling as part of their lives and every day operations.  Samuel Staples Elementary in Easton was awarded $1,000 for waste reduction promotion, assembly, and water bottle filling station.  Weston High School, which is a Connecticut Green LEAF School, and the Weston School District was awarded $800 for signage, bin stickers, posters, and an educational video.  Preference was giving to registered CT Green LEAF Schools.  Since 2016, the foundation has distributed $51,284 to schools and $175,635 to non-profit organizations and municipalities.

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2 people killed in crash involving 2 vehicles

SHELTON, Conn. (AP) — Two people were killed in a crash involving two cars late Sunday in Connecticut, police said.

The accident happened around 11:30 p.m. near Southbank Park along the Housatonic River in Shelton.

Police say 20-year-old Lily Pirulli, of Monroe, and 31-year-old Adrian Miles, of Ansonia, were killed when the car they were driving in struck an SUV.

Two other occupants were injured and taken to the hospital. One of them has since been released. The other remains in critical condition. The driver of the SUV wasn’t injured.

Police haven’t said what might have caused the crash. They say the investigation is ongoing.

The crash prompted the road to be shut down for several hours while police investigated. It has since reopened.

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Brookfield officials sign off on video surveillance system replacement

Nearly $100,000 for a video surveillance system has been approved by the Brookfield Board of Selectmen.  The $99,720 will come from the Police Outside Services Fund if the Board of Finance also signs off on the allocation. The surveillance system was initially included in the 2019-2020 capital request, but the main server and one of the outside cameras have since failed. The server also had an emergency repair.   The purchase will include cameras, software, servers, switches, monitors, keypads, workstation, backups, as well as installation and labor costs.

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Oxford Resident Trooper reports thefts from car, vehicle stolen

On Friday morning, several Oxford residents in the Punkup/Coppermine/Bowers Hill area woke up to their vehicles having been rummaged through.  In some cases thieves stole personal items from the vehicles. One vehicle was stolen overnight.  All the cars were unlocked and many had the keys inside the vehicle.  The Oxford Resident Trooper's office is reminding residents to always lock the car when not in use and remove the keys and fobs from inside.  Anyone with outside cameras that saw anything suspicious Thursday into Friday is asked to contact Officer Cosmos or Officer Hare at 203-888-4353.

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NYU, DHS team up for teaching residency program

Danbury Public Schools will be hosting an information session for future teachers.  The district has partnered with New York University’s Steinhardt program to provide a one-year combined residency and master-of-arts teaching program for college graduates to become public school teachers.  The information session is Thursday at 6pm, in the Black Box Theater at Danbury High School. Qualified candidates need only have a bachelor’s degree.  The Danbury initiative will begin in the fall to prepare middle and high school teachers in English, math, science, social studies and special education.

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Danbury Early College Opportunity program students meet with mentors

Danbury High School students in the Danbury Early College Opportunity program met with their mentors recently as they prepare for college and the workforce. Students have worked online with mentors throughout the school year completing written assignments and participating in discussions. Students in the program earn college credits, graduating from DHS with an Associate Degree from Naugatuck Valley Community College.

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Draft legislation on insulin causes confusion online

A piece of draft legislation, which is only a few sentenced long, has been causing a stir on social media.  The place-holder bill talks about a fee on insulin.  Kent Representative Maria Horn says there's been astonishing misrepresentation about the measure.  She says it would make Connecticut the third state in the country to cap insulin prices.  Horn says it levies fees on bad-acting manufacturers and distributors who aren’t transparent about their costs, but some have falsely characterized the bill as taxing insulin. Horn added that skyrocketing costs of insulin have significantly imperiled the lives of those suffering from diabetes and this bill is a step toward curbing that.

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Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company holds Annual Dinner

Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company held their Annual Dinner this weekend. Awards were given for length of service, EMT of the year, Firefighter of the Year, Engineer of the year and Unit Citations for group work.  This year's big awards were 50 years of service to Chief Wayne Gravius and the Norman T Ellis Honorary Chiefs Award, given to Vinny Wheeler, CEO of Vintech Management who the Brookfield Fire Company has worked with now for 20 years. Firefighter of the Year is Lt Jesse Fry.  Engineer of the Year is Gus Koenecke.  EMTs of the Year are Troy Morin and Peter Myers.  Unit citations were presented to the Generator Replacement Committee, the Kitchen Committee, the Santa Express Committee, and the Quick books changeover.

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Bethel Board of Finance member charged with criminal mischief

A Bethel Board of Finance member has been charged with criminal mischief.  The Newstimes reports that 53-year old Nick Ellis turned himself in last week on an active warrant.  The charges stem from accusations that he broke two 60-dollar surveillance cameras at a family-owned home on Walnut Hill Road.  The home used to belong to his parents, and his ex-brother-in-law now lives there, paying rent to the estate.  The man is a quadriplegic and the affidavit says the cameras are there to monitor his care.  Ellis and his brother run a landscaping business out of the home as well.  He told police he was concerned that someone was eavesdropping on a conversation his wife and daughter had.  Ellis was released on a written promise to appear in Court at 9am tomorrow.

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Danbury Health Department to host flu vaccine clinics

In an effort to minimize the effects of the flu virus, the Danbury Department of Health and Human Services has scheduled standing office hours to deliver the flu vaccine.  The clinics will be held in City Hall on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 4 to 6, for the month of February.  The Department is offering various flu vaccinations for persons 6 months and older.  There's a 0-dollar copay with most insurance companies. Uninsured children under 18 years of age can get a free flu shot.  It is the patient’s responsibility to pay any balance of the vaccination fee if their respective insurance company does not cover it.  Quadrivalent is $25, a high-dose, recommended for seniors, is $65, and Flublok: $65.  Department officials say they reserve the right to bill any patient whose insurance does not fully cover the cost of the vaccination.

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Brookfield Police, Special Olympics to host penguin plunge

The Brookfield Police Department and Special Olympics Connecticut have teamed up to host a penguin plunge in Candlewood Lake next month.  All of the funds raised go directly towards the costs associated with hosting the Special Olympics summer and winter games.  Teams can challenge others to see who can raise the most money. 

On March 15th, everyone runs into the frigged waters of Candlewood at Cadigan Park.  Participants must raise a minimum of $50 and be at least 8 years old. Costumes and team outfits are encouraged. 

Check in and registration for the event on the 15th starts at 11am, with the plunge scheduled for 1pm. 

Penguin Plunges are one of the largest grassroots fundraisers to benefit Special Olympics Connecticut.  Over 12,000 athletes and unified partners participate in Special Olympics Connecticut’s year-round training and competition in 26 sports.  Visit GIVE.CLASSY.ORG/PLUNGECANDLEWOOD to register as an individual, to create a team or to donate.

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New Milford Police launch program to help people with Autism, Alzheimer's

The New Milford Police Department has launched a new program to help people with Autism and Alzheimer’s.  Chief Spencer Cerruto says he hopes the Take Me Home Program will bridge the gap between police and those with special needs, and provide peace of mind to families, reunite loved ones as quickly as possible and open channels of communication between the police and the public. Take Me Home is a confidential database, maintained locally, for people who may need special assistance from the police--including if the person is unable to speak or properly identify themselves, or if they become disoriented or act in a manner that could be misinterpreted. The system includes a picture, demographic information and caregiver contacts.  Registration forms are available at the New Milford Police Department.

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Bethel Cares Coalition hosts forum on student social-emotional well-being

The Bethel Board of Education and the Bethel Cares Coalition co-sponsored an interactive community forum recently.  The The presentation titled "What Does the Survey Say??" provided some district data on the social-emotional well-being of students.  According to school officials, there is a concern about some cultural shifts in society that are impacting children’s mental health, and they hope to positively affect change by coming together as a community.  The Developmental Assets Survey Executive Summary and trends were presented.  Bethel school officials want students to be able to effectively handle stress and engage in civil discourse when they have disagreements with others, in addition to being empathetic and happy individuals.  The majority of the time at Monday's form was spent discussing actions that can be taken as a larger community to ensure the social and emotional well-being of all students.  The Bethel School District plans future workshops to update parents on the progress.

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Former Newtown Superintendent testifies before Social & Emotional Learning and School Climate Advisory

The Connecticut General Assembly created a Social & Emotional Learning and School Climate Advisory Collaborative.  They met recently to talk about how school districts across the state have changed their bullying and school climate policies. 

One of the administrators who provided testimony was former Newtown Superintendent Dr Janet Robison, who now leads the Stratford School District.  She says they used to have an anti-bullying plan, even though that wasn't what it officially was called.  The plan has evolved because it was highly punitive.  While there were consequences, Robinson says the policy didn't get to the root of the problem and the involved students had to be together in the district for years. 

There's now three-pronged training to improve school climate.  Part involves responsive classrooms, there's restorative practices training, and trauma sensitive schools training.  Robinson says the professional development relies on preventing problems for occurring, and then if they do happen, make sure it's not just punitive reaction.

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Ad hoc committee studying ladder truck purchase for Bethel Fire Department

An ad-hoc committee has been created in Bethel to discuss how to move forward on replacing an aerial ladder truck for the Bethel Fire Department.  The 90-foot ladder and turntable do not work.  The Committee inspected the apparatus, which has only used for the tools on board since September.  When a ladder truck is needed on a call, mutual aid is requested from surrounding towns.  Fire Chief Scott Murphy says the parts are difficult to replace due to the 42-year old truck’s age.

The group rejected the idea of buying a ladder truck from Bedford Hills, New York as it is not in the department's best interest or the best interest of Bethel residents because the truck is currently-out of compliance with NEPA Standards.  Combined with the purchase price, refurbishment to bring it into-compliance will cost an estimated $1.6 million. This is the estimated cost of a new truck that meets the town's specific needs. 

The Officers of the Bethel Volunteer Fire Department did not support the purchase of the used vehicle. 

The 2013 Holdsworth study determined that the Bethel Fire Department's current truck should be replaced with a completely new truck by 2020.  The Stony Hill Volunteer Fire Department does not have a ladder truck, but officials say will need one in the near future due to growth in that section of town.

The Committee wants to see the original spec and bid on the refurbishment done in 2005.  They noted that the 2018 report points out critical deficiencies, and the 2019 report includes the hydraulic issue.  The group also requested testing reports and repair orders for the last few years.

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Congressman calls for creation of international cyber norms

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released the third volume of the Committee’s investigation into Russian election interference. In part, the committee recommended that the US exercise its leadership in creating international cyber norms. 4th District Congressman Jim Himes welcomed the report, saying he has for years promoted the development and implementation of a formalized international agreement on acceptable uses of cyber capabilities.  Himes is again reaching out to the State Department, sending a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo encouraging a refocusing on this issue. Himes has previously pushed for the introduction of international accords that would set the rules and standards for cyber conflict, referring to them as the E-Neva Accords in reference to the Geneva Accords of the 20th Century.  The United Nations has done some work to develop guidelines in this area, but there is currently no broad effort to expand these guidelines into official international agreements. 

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Hawleyville Post Office hosting passport event

Residents in Fairfield County can knock an item off their travel to-do list today with several Post Offices in the state offering passport events. Hawleyville Post Office in Newtown will have a dedicated line for passport applicants from 8am to 5pm. 

To obtain a passport applicants need to bring proper proof of American citizenship, proof of identity, and a recent color passport photograph that's 2” x 2” in size. The Post Office will offer passport photo service for an additional $15. Customers should download the passport application and complete it beforehand, but don't sign it ahead of time.

All applicants, including minors, must appear in person.

Each passport for an adult must be accompanied by a check or money order for $110, made payable to the U.S. Department of State and a $35 acceptance fee made payable to USPS. Fees for children under 16 are $80, payable to the U.S. Department of State and $35 payable to USPS.  The cost to expedite processing at the Department of State is $60 paid per application, in addition to required fees.

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Bethel Special Town Meeting set on water storage tank at Chestnut Ridge Reservoir

A Special Town Meeting is being held next month in Bethel for residents to vote on building a 500,000 gallon water storage tank at the Chestnut Ridge Reservoir.  The Bethel Public Utilities Commission project will also require a referendum.  The date will be determined at the Special Town Meeting on March 2nd.  There will be no direct cost to Bethel taxpayers in funding this project.  The votes are needed so the Public Utilities Commission can apply for low-interest loans and grants from the State Department of Public Health. Loan repayments and other associated costs are paid solely from water user accounts.  Bethel officials say constructing this tank is the next phase in a multi-year capital upgrade project to improve the town's public water system. When completed, the tank will reduce the use of sanitizers, as well as improve fire fighting capabilities by creating higher volume and flow capacity.  The Special Town Meeting on March 2nd is at 6:30pm in Meeting Room A of the Municipal Center.

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Danbury lawmaker recommends stronger consumer protections for electric customers

Stronger consumer protections for electric customers are being advocated for by Danbury state Representative David Arconti.  He chairs the Energy & Technology Committee.  During a recent event with members of the AARP, Arconti said Connecticut consumers deserve a clear understanding of charges and surcharges on their utility bills.  This is a response to a new survey of consumers 50 years of age and older that revealed a vast majority are concerned about their electricity costs increasing. According to AARP, Connecticut consumers using third-party electric suppliers paid an estimated $200 million more than consumers on electric utility standard service between 2015 and 2018.

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Humane Society to present award to Bethel lawmaker this weekend

Bethel State Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan will be recognized tomorrow as a 2019 Humane Legislator at the Danbury Animal Welfare Society.  The Connecticut State Director for The Humane Society of the United States cited Allie-Brennan for championing efforts to fight puppy mill traffickers.  DAWS officials say soon after being elected in 2018, Allie-Brennan established himself as an outspoken advocate for animal welfare.  The award will be presented at 11am at DAWS on Grassy Plain Street.

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Monroe Police report uptick in phone scams

In recent months Monroe Police have had a huge uptick in a variety of scams. Most start with an unsolicited phone call where the caller uses pressure tactics to try to convince the recipient of an imminent arrested for non-compliance.  Anyone receiving such a call is urged to hang up immediately. Reputable companies will not threaten arrest if they don't get paid on the spot.  Personal information such as date of birth, social security number of banking details should not be given over the phone.  Money should never be wire transferred to a stranger.  Monroe Police also remind residents not to buy prepaid cards and scratch the off the back then give that number to the caller.

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Parloa Park in Bethel getting new playground equipment

The 25-year old playground equipment at Parloa Park in Bethel is being torn down and removed.  Crews are getting the space ready for a brand new play set arriving this spring.  About $36,000 from the Capital Non-Recurring Account was approved for the work, but there's also a  $14,000 grant available from a company called GameTime. Plans call for a rock climbing wall and new features in the toddler playground.  The equipment is aimed at 2 to 5 year olds and 5 to 12 year olds.  The same company that made the equipment at Meckauer Park is doing this work and it's similar to what's there.

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Draft budget proposal presented to Danbury Board of Ed

A draft budget proposal has been presented to the Danbury Board of Education.  Superintendent Sal Pascarella could seek a more than 7-percent increase to cover an enrollment surge and the cost of special education.  That could translate for nearly $10 million more in funding from the City.  The spike in the number of students moving into the district means a need for about 68 new full-time positions.  Nearly half of those teachers are needed for Kindergarten through 5th grade.  The governor’s budget revisions released this week gives Danbury $2.68 million more in state aid than this school year, but that does not account for the unexpected spike in enrollment this year.

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Danbury City Council member resigning

A Danbury City Council member is resigning. Chris Arctoni announced at their meeting this week that he has bought a home in Brookfield and will no longer be a city resident.  The 3rd Ward Councilman's resignation takes effect on the 28th.  Arconti noted that City Hall was built under his father Gino's mayoral administration in the 70s so going there for the last 6 years and seeing his picture gave him a great sense of pride.  Arconti joined the Western Connecticut State University baseball coaching staff in 2010 and has served as the team's Pitching Coach ever since.

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Wilton Police one of first in Conn. to purchase new Interceptor Hybrid

The Wilton Police Department is one of the first agencies in Connecticut to purchase the new Ford Police Interceptor Utility Hybrid. It has an EPA-estimated rating of 24 miles per gallon combine city and highway driving, which is a 41 percent improvement over the current Police Interceptor Utility equipped with a conventional gas engine. 

Wilton Police say the new model is projected to save taxpayers between $3,500 and $5,700 per vehicle in fuel costs annually. The 2020 model is the first-ever pursuit-rated police utility vehicle with a standard hybrid engine. 

(Photo: WPD)

Wilton Police test drove the new hybrid model last fall and say it does not sacrifice any of the performance that they would get with the traditional police vehicle.  Wilton Police say hybrid technology is ideal for law enforcement because of the potentially significant idle-time fuel savings.

When police vehicles are stationary, a conventional gasoline engine must run continuously to power emergency lighting, radios, computers and other on-board electrical equipment.  The hybrid powertrain of the Police Interceptor Utility Hybrid allows the engine to shut off for extended periods, powering electrical equipment via its lithium-ion battery and helping achieve significant reductions in fuel usage and CO2 emissions over the previous generation Police Interceptor Utility.

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Redding man seeks to take back state House seat

Another former Connecticut lawmaker is looking to take his seat back.  Republican John Shaban has announced his candidacy for the 135th General Assembly District representing Redding, Easton and Weston.  He served for 6 years in office, but left in 2017 to run for the 4th Congressional District position.  When he was a Connecticut lawmaker, Shaban was part of the Environment, Judiciary and the Finance Revenue and Bonding Committees.  According to his campaign announcement, Shaban said he will advocate for greater local control of education and land use, and opposes forced regionalization of schools and services.  Shaban has been a lawyer for 26 years, specializing in commercial and corporate litigation, and has an environmental law degree.  The state Representative seat is currently held by freshman Democrat Ann Hughes, who is facing a primary challenge. 

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Board of Regents approves tuition hike for WestConn, Eastern, Central and Southern

The Board of Regents for Higher Education has voted unanimously to raise tuition at Western, Eastern, Central and Southern Connecticut State Universities.  Tuition and fees will increase by an average of 3.8 percent for commuter students and 3.3 percent for resident students. That translates to an average annual increase of just over $400 for commuter students and just over $800 for residents.  Tuition and fees for the 12 community colleges will remain flat.  The Students First Initiative, regionalization of the schools, has realized over $10 million in savings this year and has a projected $16 million in savings for the next year.  Tuition at Charter Oak State Collage will remain flat, while fees will be reduced.

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Sandy Hook driver who fled crash is caught

Newtown Police were able to quickly track down a driver who fled the scene of a crash last week.  Police responded to Walnut Tree Hill Road and determined that a driver went off the shoulder and struck two mailboxes and a utility pole, which police say was completed destroyed.  The car was left at the scene, and officers checked its registered address.  They located 22-year old Curtis Williamson nearby at his Sandy Hook home.  Williamson and his passenger were evaluated by EMS.  He was charged with evading responsibility and making a restricted turn.  The car had to be towed from the scene.

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Judge compares Norwalk man with interest in mass shootings to Sandy Hook gunman

A Norwalk man accused of attacking his father and showing an interest in mass shootings will not have his bond lowered.  The Connecticut Post reports that the Judge compared 22-year old Brandon Wagshol to the Sandy Hook gunman. 

Wagshol was arrested Saturday after police say he attacked his father with a lead pipe during an argument over his video games being too loud.  Abraham Wagshol told the judge that his son has been struggling with mental health issues since he was 8 years old and putting him back in jail won’t address that.

The judge said he was sure Wagshol was a loving father, but noted that the Sandy Hook gunman's mother was loving, too. 

The Judge placed a full protective order against Wagshol that prevents him from contacting his father, with an exception for communications regarding psychiatric and medical matters.

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Danbury submits bid for supportive housing on Elm Street

Danbury officials are looking to increase supportive housing residential program units.  An affiliate of the Housing Authority has issued a Request for Proposals for 98A Elm Street.  The Health and Human Services Department has submitted a proposal, but it wasn't immediately reviewed because the City Council had to approve the plan.  That approval came Tuesday night. 

Director Lisa Morrisey says supportive housing combines affordable housing with intensive coordinated services. 

She notes that they have to talk with the Housing Authority about whether the multi-family home also on the property will be required to come down as part of the project.  The Housing Authority has to meet certain federal Housing and Urban Development requirements and HUD has to review the plans.

Morrisey hopes to open the doors by the end of summer and start taking people in, but couldn't commit to a timeline.

The proposal recommends 14 beds instead of the zoned 20.  Staff will monitor the site to ensure safety of residents and site.  Staff does not sleep or live there, they are hired to work and will make sure visitors do not stay overnight.  Some of the wrap around services include vocational training, job searches, and case management.

Morrisey says people with mental illness, chronic health conditions, histories of trauma and other struggles often end up in crisis situations while living on the streets, and emergency rooms and interaction with public safety officers may be the only care they are able to access. This, in turn, leads to greater strain on social services, health care and public safety systems. 

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Amazon delivery driver arrested for stealing purse from a car

An Amazon delivery driver has been arrested in Southbury for allegedly stealing a purse from a car.  A 69-year old Southbury woman reported to Police on Tuesday that she had parked at her Hemlock Ridge Road home minutes before receiving a delivery from Amazon. When she returned to her car, she noticed several items were missing.  The driver was identified as Andre Brooks, of Bristol.  He was located and confessed to stealing the woman’s purse after his delivery. Amazon personnel responded to the scene to assist police. Brooks was released on bond and is scheduled to appear in Court on February 12th.

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Cat was found locked in basement of Redding Town Hall bites employee

A cat was found locked in the basement of Redding Town Hall yesterday.  The medium-sized short-hair orange tabby scratched and bit an employee, drawing blood.  Redding officials say this could be a potential health threat for that person and are calling on residents to help identify the cat's owner to provide proof of rabies vaccination.  The cat's right ear was clipped. He was skittish with men but ran to females. The cat rubbed on people’s legs but when touched, hissed and backed up.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Redding Animal Control at 203-938-3400 with any information.

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String of larcenies from vehicles in North Salem under investigation

A string of larcenies from vehicles in the town of North Salem is under investigation.  New York State Police Investigators are attempting to identify two subjects from security images from a Walmart where the stolen credit cards were fraudulently used.  Anyone with information on the possible identity or location of the two subjects is asked to contact Investigator Wollman of the New York State Police at (914) 769-2600.  Refer to case #9337398.

(Photo: NYSP)

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Several injured in car crashes around Greater Danbury Wednesday

There were three big car accidents in the Greater Danbury area yesterday. 

Ridgefield Police closed a section of Barlow Mountain Road near Scotland Elementary shortly after 8am after a car crashed into a utility pole.  The pole came down, and took wires with it.  There were reported injuries.  The road was closed until about 12:30pm. 

There was a 4-car crash in Brookfield.  Emergency responders were dispatched to the intersection of Federal and Candlewood Lake Roads shortly after 11am.  Two occupants were pinned in one car and required extrication. 

  

(Photos: BVFD)

As some firefighters worked to removed the occupants, others cleaned up fluid spills from the other vehicles. One person was transported to Danbury Hospital for treatment.  Firefighters were on scene for about 45 minutes. 

Bethel Police responded to a multi-vehicle accident on Route 53 at Nashville Road, which sent 3 people to the hospital.  At least one person was reported trapped in their car around 3:45pm.  Traffic was blocked at Francis J. Clarke Circle for at least an hour.

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Danbury man arrested on outstanding bench warrant, Bail Jumping charge

A Danbury man has been arrested on an outstanding Putnam County Court Bench warrant and Bail Jumping charges.  In July, 2019 35-year old Adam Latham failed to appear in Court to answer Felony charges of Possession and sale of a Controlled Substance, and resisting arrest.  The charges stemmed from an investigation and arrest last February.  Last month, investigators  traveled to Danbury Superior Court to take Latham into custody after he was being released from the State of Connecticut Department of Corrections on unrelated charges.  He was arraigned on the Bench Warrant and bail jumping charge, and ordered held at the Putnam County Correctional Facility bail.  He has since pleaded guilty and will be sentenced at a later date.

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New Fairfield Board of Ed to meet tonight on proposed budget

The New Fairfield Board of Education is meeting tonight to talk about the proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.  Superintendent Pat Cosentino has prepared a budget with a 3.16 percent increase over the current year.  Most of the $44.3 million budget is for salary and health insurance costs.  It also includes new debt service anticipated from the two school building projects. 

New Fairfield is projected to have an enrollment decline, which prompted a proposal in the budget to cut 6 full time teacher positions.  A part-time math instructional coach, one gifted and talented teacher/instructional coach and a school security director would be added. 

The Board of Ed meeting is at 7pm in the New Fairfield Community Room.  


The proposed budget will be submitted to the Board of Finance on February 20th.  A public hearing will be held March 7th.  A vote on the school and town budgets is expected during the annual town meeting in April.

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Newtown man pleads guilty to stealing from Norwalk employer

A Newtown man has pleaded guilty to stealing $135,000 from his Norwalk employer.  33-year old Kyle Lyddy, who was gubernatorial campaign manager for unaffiliated candidate Oz Griebel, entered the plea yesterday.  The judge ruled that Lyddy can participate in the Accelerated Rehabilitation court diversionary program for first-time offenders.  He has made $100,000 in restitution and given 6 months to repay the remaining money.  The larceny charge could be expunged from his record and he would avoid jail if the money is repaid within that time frame.  Senior Assistant State’s Attorney told the Connecticut Post that more money was taken in the scam, which involved two other Match Marketing Group employees from Georgia that Lyddy supervised from Norwalk. The other employees are being prosecuted in Georgia.

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Ridgefield Historic District Commission meets on Keeler Tavern site development

The Ridgefield Historic District Commission has met to discuss site development at Keeler Tavern.  Sean O'Kane said this was all preliminary, but Keeler Tavern is looking at two items.  The first priority was the Garden House. The north side doors are rotting and the original French doors had to be restored.  Most people now enter from the North side, but according to meeting minutes, it's in terrible shape.  The Restoration Committee hadn’t settled on all items, but the second priority would be developing a new larger parking area.  They are considering taking down the rental cottage behind the recently acquired new reception building to connect into the existing driveway. Most parking would be in the back.  Kent Lane would remain a private driveway.  But the parking issue is still under discussion and they anticipate returning to the Commission with more details in a few months. 

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Lamont opens session with rosy speech, says state improving

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Gov. Ned Lamont welcomed state lawmakers back to the Capitol with a pep talk on Wednesday, touting an improved economy, a more stable state budget and an uptick in economic development.

During his second State of the State Address, the former businessman quoted a succession of recent accolades from Wall Street and bond rating agencies, some of which recently upgraded their fiscal outlooks for Connecticut for the first time in 18 years from neutral to positive.

“A year ago, I promised we would work together to ensure Connecticut’s future would no longer be defined by fiscal crisis,” the Democrat told members of the Democratic-controlled General Assembly on opening day of the new three-month, legislative session. He noted how the state now has a record-high budget reserve fund of more than $2.5 billion to weather a future economic storm and various companies have announced expansion plans.

“All right, Connecticut, we’ve got our mojo back,” he said, later encouraging lawmakers to stop “bad-mouthing” Connecticut. “This is an amazing state,” he said. “The rest of the country is looking at our state in a new light, and so should its leaders.”

While Democrats like Senate President Pro Tempore Martin Looney of New Haven said Lamont hit the right tone in his midday address, agreeing the state has “turned a corner” financially, minority Republicans accused the governor of ignoring reality and targeting his comments at GOP lawmakers.

“What people want in this state is honesty. They want us to tell them what’s going on and unfortunately a lot of that is not positive,” said House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby. “But they want to know what’s going on, whether it’s good or it’s bad and they want to know how we’re going to fix it.”

The nonpartisan Office of Fiscal Analysis estimates the state’s main spending account, the general fund, will have a $183.8 million surplus next fiscal year, which is slightly higher than the budgeted $166.2 million surplus. Also, the state’s budget reserve account is projected to grow to $3 billion by fiscal year 2021, a record high.

But that doesn’t mean Connecticut’s financial challenges are over.

This year’s general fund has a nearly $30 million projected deficit, due mostly to tax refunds and state agency shortfalls. And the Office of Fiscal Analysis is also projecting general fund deficits in future fiscal years: $757 million in fiscal year 2022, $1.2 billion in 2023 and $917 million in 2024.

“Not only does he have rose-colored glasses on, he doesn’t want anybody to be critical of all the bad policies that they put forward,” said Senate Minority Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven. “I mean, that’s like telling a patient to go see a doctor and say, ‘but don’t tell them what hurts.’ That just doesn’t work. We’re legislators. We’re supposed to point out things that are not going in the right direction.”

Because this is a short, three-month session, Lamont on Wednesday unveiled changes to a $22 billion tax-and-spending plan approved last year for the fiscal year that begins July 1. It calls for a 0.6% spending increase. Unlike last year’s proposal, Lamont’s revised plan includes limited tax changes.

For example, one of the biggest changes is a proposed 50% wholesale tax on all e-cigarette liquid. There’s also a proposed new fee for individuals who choose to pay for state services with a credit card. Lamont’s budget proposal eliminates $50 million in planned state fee increases and maintains state aid to cities or towns.

During his address, Lamont continued his pitch for truck-only tolls to help pay for transportation improvements. He’s also calling for a ban of flavored vaping products, including menthol; $1.5 million for Planned Parenthood and other family planning centers; a new regulatory framework for legalized recreational marijuana use by July 1, 2022, which is in conjunction with efforts in neighboring states; and a “responsible sports betting platform” that is “fair” to the state’s two federally recognized Indian tribes with casinos in southeastern Connecticut.

There’s also additional funding for mosquito management; funding for approximately 170 new state troopers; funding for a new election informational technology position in the Secretary of the State’s office; funding to test so-called “forever chemicals” in water and sediment; online lottery games to help pay for a debt-free community college program; and funding to reduce the cost of phone calls for inmates.

The legislature has struggled for months trying to pass a transportation plan that includes tolls of some sort. House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said a vote could now be held next week, but acknowledged “things are always subject to change.”

Connecticut lawmakers were greeted Wednesday by protesters, including tolling opponents. Hundreds of vaccination skeptics also rallied outside the state Capitol, urging legislators to block any efforts to repeal the state’s religious exemption from certain vaccines for public school students. Other groups were also hoping to catch the attention of legislators, including opponents of a proposed natural gas plant in Killingly, proponents of marijuana legalization and service plaza workers, security officers and building cleaners seeking passage of various labor-related bills.

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Police investigate theft from car at Southbury Dog Park

A theft from a motor vehicle is being investigated by Southbury Police.  The incident happened on Roxbury Road, at the Southbury Dog Park,  between 3:30 and 5:30pm Sunday.  Police say the driver's side window was smashed and a purse was stolen.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Southbury police at 203-264-5912.

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World Read Aloud Day celebrated at Newtown Middle School

World Read Aloud Day has been marked at Newtown Middle School. The annual event aims to advocate for global literacy by engaging students with oral storytelling.  State Representative Mitch Bolinsky participated in the event yesterday and read The Three Questions by Jon J. Muth.  He chose the book because of the lessons it teaches about compassion and kindness, both values that are ingrained in the Newtown community.  He thinks the book hits home for the students and is something they can take with them as they become more civically engaged.

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Putnam County Sheriff calls for Bail Reform law changes

Putnam County Sheriff Robert Langley and other New York State Sheriffs, along with members of both the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police and the District Attorney’s Association met to raise concerns over the Bail Reform and Discovery Laws that came into effect at the beginning of this year. Among other provisions, the reforms eliminated cash bail and pretrial detention for nearly all misdemeanors and nonviolent felony cases.  That resulted in the mandatory release of 90 percent of those arrested, regardless of their criminal history.  A bill to repeal the reforms is already in the State Assembly.

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Ethan Allen: Fiscal 2Q Earnings Snapshot

DANBURY, Conn. (AP) _ Ethan Allen Interiors Inc. (ETH) on Tuesday reported fiscal second-quarter earnings of $7.1 million.

The Danbury, Connecticut-based company said it had profit of 27 cents per share.

The results exceeded Wall Street expectations. The average estimate of three analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 26 cents per share.

The home furnishings company posted revenue of $174.6 million in the period, matching Street forecasts.

Ethan Allen shares have declined 17% since the beginning of the year. In the final minutes of trading on Tuesday, shares hit $15.83, a fall of 17% in the last 12 months.

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FERC accepting comments on proposal to expand docks at Candlewood Isle

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission is accepting comments, motions to intervene, and protests on First Light's request to allow the Tax District of Candlewood Isle to expand existing residential boat docks at Candlewood Isle.  Filings will be accepted until March 2nd. 

The tax District currently has 3 docks that accommodate 40 watercraft and 19 mooring locations at the Clubhouse, and two docks that accommodate 12 watercraft at the tennis courts. 

The proposal calls for extending each of the 3 existing docks at the clubhouse to accommodate an additional 20 watercraft, and add 4 additional docks at the Tennis Courts location to accommodate an additional 72 watercraft.  The proposed facilities could accommodate a total of 144 watercraft, which would be a net increase of 73 boat docking locations relative to the existing conditions.

First Light says its request is consistent with the approved Shoreline Management Plan and Boat Overcrowding Plan because, among other things, the applicant holds deeded rights to construct the boat docks.

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Danbury City Council passes contentious bond package to voters

The Danbury City Council met last night and passed a contentious bond package.  The meeting lasted about two and a half hours.  Some freshmen Democrats on the Council say there isn't enough detail about the projects to be bonded. 

The Council voted 18 to 2, and Councilman Salvatore abstaining, to send the package to the voters on April 28th.  Councilmen Santos and Alves voted against the proposal. 

Members were looking for specific line item information about downtown revitalization projects and roads to be paved. The Republican Town Committee accused them of politicizing Danbury children's futures. 

Mark Cammisa, husband of Councilwoman Nancy Cammisa, chided members during the public speaking portion of the night saying obstruct and resist movement has no place in the community and should be left to national politicians.

Classrooms would go on the first floor of the Osborne Street building, with administrative offices moving to a renovated second floor.  The City needs to meet a June 30th deadline in order to obtain a state grant, which would cover 60 percent of eligible costs.?

Another project on the proposed April 28 referendum is $8.55 million to install streetscape in the downtown area, which the city has long aimed to revitalize.  Also included is $18.5 million for various road improvements, $7.05 million for park and open space projects, $2.5 million for an energy efficiency imitative and $2.1 million for a fire apparatus storage facility.

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Fox involved in Kent attacks tests positive for rabies

The fox that attacked people and dogs in the area of South Main Street in Kent last week tested positive for rabies. It is possible that other wildlife may have had contact with this fox, so residents are asked to be alert when they are outside in the area. 

Anyone who spots a wild animal that is acting abnormally, is urged to call the DEEP Wildlife 24-hour emergency number 860-424-3333.  Anyone in immediate danger of being attacked should call 911.  Seeing wildlife out during the day is not usually cause for alarm, unless it is acting strangely. 

While state guidelines recommend calling local animal control for help capturing animals involved in a rabies exposure, Kent Animal Control does not carry guns.  The town's animal control officer says an assistant helped a firefighter kill the fox. 

Treatment for rabies exposure is highly effective if administered promptly and consists of a series of six injections.

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Brookfield resident appointed to Connecticut Board of Education

A Brookfield resident has been appointed to the Connecticut Board of Education.  Governor Lamont has named Bonnie Burr to fill a vacancy on the Board. 

She currently serves as Assistant Director and Department Head with the Cooperative Extension System at the UConn College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, where she has worked since 2009. In this position, she provides leadership assistance to 105 faculty and staff managing a wide variety of outreach and educational programs involving public engagement in local, state, regional, national, and international programs.

Burr is also State Chair of the State Committee USDA Farm Service Agency for Connecticut.  Previously, she served as state director of the USDA Farm Service Agency for Connecticut and Rhode Island, and was the director of government relations for the Connecticut Farm Bureau.

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Redding officials get update on emergency responder communication system upgrades

Redding officials have gotten an update on the emergency responder communication systems infrastructure upgrade.  The vendor attended a special Board of Selectmen meeting last night. 

Redding approved over $2 million to purchase new radios and consoles, and rebuild the infrastructure, for the public safety communication system.  All fire companies in Redding will be included. 

First Selectwoman Julia Pemberton says they'll be able to better communicate with neighboring towns during mutual aid calls.  The radios are ready to be programmed.  Pemberton says the infrastructure is the backbone of the project.  The vendor discussed the transmission and receive sites, where the towers are locate and what has to go on them. 

There was also an update to the timeline for completion.  Pemberton hopes it will be live by the beginning of July.

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NY man arrested for attempted murder following nearly 11 hour standoff with police

A New York man has been arrested on two counts of attempted murder following a standoff with police.  New York State Police charged 70-year old Stewart Mercay of Dover on Saturday. 

Troopers responded to a Wingdale home early in the morning on a report of a man, later identified as Mercay, who fired two shotgun rounds through the living room window of his neighbor’s house.  Mercay later refused to come out of his home. 

State Police attempted negotiations for nearly 11 hours before he was taken into custody.  Troopers say he vented propane gas from the kitchen stove, and lit a candle before exiting through a rear door, placing law enforcement in danger of an explosion.

Members of the New York State Police Special Operations Response Team, Crisis Negotiation Unit, Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office, Dutchess County Department of Emergency Response, and Northern Dutchess Paramedics responded to the scene.

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Community conversation scheduled in Newtown about Fairfield Hills future uses

The third session in a series of community conversations about Fairfield Hills will be held on February 18th.  Newtown First Selectman Dan Rosenthal encouraged all residents and community stakeholders to take part in the discussion about possible options to be considered for the future use of the buildings and property. 

Questions received to date will be addressed in the upcoming session.  Residents can email questions to FH@Newtown-CT.gov with name and address in the email.  All questions received will be addressed by the end of the process. 

The information session on the 18th will be held in the Newtown High School Lecture Hall, from 7pm to 8:15pm.  It will be followed by the normally scheduled Board of Selectmen meeting, in the auditorium. 

The snow date is February 24th.

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New Hampshire man charged for stalking Putnam County woman

A New Hampshire man has been arrested for stalking a woman in Putnam County that he played an online game with.  Sherif's Deputies responded to a Southeast home on January 18th on a report of an unwanted person on the property. 

The woman said she knew Rattana Phimmavongsa from an online gaming app and he showed up unannounced and uninvited. 

The victim stopped speaking to and playing the game, called Ark Survival, about two years ago because of his jealous behavior toward her, but he kept spending game invites, which she ignored. 

On January 16th, the victim discovered that  Phimmavongsa hacked into her online gaming account and showed up, causing her to fear for her safety.  He was located at a nearby motel and charged with stalking. 

Phimmavongsa was arraigned and released as mandated by newly implemented bail reform laws.

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Fox involved in 3 incidents in Kent is killed

There have been three incidents, Thursday into Friday, where people and their pets have either had contact with, or have been bitten by, a fox in Kent Village. 

Resident State Trooper Andrew Fisher says the fox was killed and transported to the state Department of Public Health lab in Rocky Hill for testing.  Fisher says these incidents happened very quickly and with little warning. 

Wild animals, even if they don’t appear dangerous, are still extremely unpredictable and Police say every effort should be made to avoid getting near them. 

First Selectman Jean Speck says it's important to stay aware of your surroundings.  This includes having a plan if there is an emergency on a dog walking route.  Anyone coming in contact with a wild animal should call 911 and be seen in the emergency department for evaluation and possible treatment. 

Kent Animal Control and the Health Director at Torrington Area Health District are aware of the situation.

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Southbury Police seek ID of suspect in grocery store shoplifting case

The Southbury Police Department is seeking information about a larceny that occurred at Stop and Shop on Main Street North last week.  The suspect was at the store last Monday, around 5:15pm and appears to be a black male.  He was wearing a dark colored hooded sweatshirt with a multicolor pattern, black sweatpants, white sneakers and a baseball cap. The suspect walked out of the store with a shopping cart of unpaid items. Anyone with information about this incident or knows the suspect is asked to contact Officer Pierce at (203) 264-5912.

  

(Photos: SPD)

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Freshman lawmaker announces reelection campaign

Another freshman state lawmaker has announced his reelection campaign.  Representative Ken Gucker has also qualified for the state's Citizen Election grant program.  He represents the 138th District of Danbury, New Fairfield and Ridgefield.  In 2018, Gucker was the first Democrat to win the seat in 36 years.  He was appointed as an Assistant Majority Leader in his first term and is a member of the Environment, Planning and Development, and Banking Committees.  Gucker says his goal is to provide  quality representation of constituent issues and work hard to help solve their problems.  The 2020 Session of the Connecticut General Assembly begins in Hartford tomorrow.

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Cash advance for Richter Park recommended by City Council committee

Danbury could make a cash advance of up to $150,000 to the Richter Park Authority. The line of credit is meant to address their temporary cash flow needs during the off season.

Danbury Finance Director David St Hilaire says the poor weather conditions shortened this past season and it negatively affected their reserve cash levels. The City Council approved a $1.5 million refinancing loan for 15 years at a 2.5 percent interest rate in November 2015.  Another $600,000 was approved last year for the driving range project.  St Hilaire says the range, completed in April, is bringing in residual benefits for Richter Park operations. 

The current loan balance is $1.7 million.  All payments have been made on time.  St Hilaire is recommending an automatic renewal of the $150,000 line of credit annually, under the condition that any amounts borrowed during the fiscal year be repaid by the end of the same fiscal year.  Any outstanding balance on the line of credit will accrue interest at the 2.5 percent rate. 

Out-of-town player green fees, a heavy revenue driver, have dropped due to competition.  In order to address cash flow issues during the winter months, the Richter Park Authority has made changes to their rate structure.  They've also streamlined.  There used to be a general manager and a head pro, but the GM position was eliminated.  Those duties are now handled by the executive committee. 

City Councilman Duane Perkins expressed concerns because when the Council was vetting the loan amount for building the driving range, there were questions about whether funding would be adequate.  There were cost overruns of about $20,000. 

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Attorney: Mar-a-Lago checkpoint crasher is mentally ill

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. (AP) — The Connecticut opera singer who drew gunfire when she smashed an SUV through security checkpoints outside President Donald Trump's Florida home is mentally ill and wasn't taking her medication before leading a trooper on a wild chase, her attorney told a judge Monday.

Attorney David Roth did not elaborate on Hannah Roemhild's illness, but Palm Beach County Judge Ted Booras agreed to have her seen by a psychologist before another hearing is held Friday.

Roemhild, 30, will remain jailed without bail on charges that include aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer from last Friday's chase through Palm Beach and past security outside Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort and home. Roemhild refused to appear in court Saturday.

Authorities say there is no indication she knew she was speeding toward Mar-a-Lago and its security barriers.

Friday's events began just before noon when a Florida Highway Patrol trooper working an off-duty security shift at the Breakers Hotel in Palm Beach approached Roemhild as she danced on the roof of her rented Jeep SUV in the high-end resort's parking lot. She jumped inside and refused to acknowledge his taps on the glass.

She then put the car in reverse and drove away. The trooper smashed the window and tried to grab the steering wheel to prevent her from leaving, but she sped away, leading him on a chase south down swanky Ocean Drive toward Mar-a-Lago, 3 miles away, at speeds in excess of 70 mph.

Authorities there say she swerved around concrete barriers and through two checkpoints, endangering the lives of Secret Service agents and Palm Beach County deputies staffing them. They opened fire, breaking out her back window. At this point, the trooper ended his pursuit, fearing lives would be endangered if it continued.

At some point, Roemheld picked up a female relative before automatic license plate readers tracked her to a motel near Palm Beach International Airport. A trooper tackled her as she tried to flee into her room.

Roemheld, who studied at West Conn, has appeared in several Connecticut operas and said on social media recently that she had an unspecified performance scheduled in Palm Beach this past week.

Trump and his family were not at Mar-a-Lago during the shooting, but arrived hours later and spent the weekend there. He recently changed his official residence to Mar-a-Lago from New York City.

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Conn. Congressional delegation announce State of the Union guests

A Newtown woman will be the guest of 5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes tonight at the State of the Union.  Bridget Sclafani lost her husband to brain cancer in 2018.  Hayes says she was moved by the woman's story at a town hall event in Newtown last month. 

Sclafani started a foundation in honor of her husband, Paul, in order to help other families batting cancer and facing challenges with their insurance companies.  She told Hayes about the fight with insurance companies, which denied services for his treatment and care. 

Hayes said she hopes the president discusses how to help families deal with health care costs.

Hayes said in a statement that "Bridget’s strength and generosity to honor Paul’s legacy by helping others, is an inspiration to us all. We must do more to ensure families like Bridget’s can focus on their treatment without having to worry about the costs.”

A Weston man will be the guest of Senator Richard Blumenthal tonight at the State of the Union.  Christopher Reeb is the uncle of Marine Staff Sergeant Tyler Reeb, a decorated Marine Corps sniper who grew up in New Canaan. 

Tyler took his own life in October following multiple tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, including leading more than 100 combat missions against the Taliban. 

Last week, the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee approved Blumenthal-authored legislation to that would improve the operation, oversight, and evaluation of the VA’s suicide prevention outreach campaigns. It adopts several recommendations from the Government Accountability Office, and creates a process to oversee VA’s suicide prevention campaigns. 

Blumenthal said in a statement “Tyler Reeb was an American combat hero whose death was caused by the invisible wounds of war, like 6,000 veterans who die by suicide every year. He was a father, son, brother, friend, and I am honored that his uncle Chris Reeb will represent his family as my guest at the State of the Union."

4th District Congressman Jim Himes will be joined at the State of the Union Address tonight by Connecticut native Gary Mendell, founder and CEO of Shatterproof.  The nonprofit organization is dedicated to reversing the addiction crisis by transforming addiction treatment, shattering stigma of addiction, advocating for federal and state policy change and payer reform, and supporting and educating the community. 

Mendell lost his son in 2011 after a years-long struggle with a substance use disorder.  He called addiction a public health crisis that will impact generations to come.

While overdose deaths may have plateaued for the first time in 28 years, the number of annual overdose deaths is still more than three times what it was just 20 years ago. 

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UConn student from Redding dies in weekend car crash

A UConn student from Redding has died from injuries sustained in a crash on Saturday morning in Coventry.  Police say 21-year-old Cole Montefusco was ejected from his vehicle around 4am on Route 44.  No other cars were involved.  Police said he suffered from serious injuries and succumbed to those injures at Hartford Hospital.

The road was closed for several hours as officers investigated the crash. 

Region 9 Superintendent Tom McMorran says the faculty and staff are grieving the death of the 2016 Joel Barlow High School graduate.  McMorran says they will work support everyone impacted by the tragic accident. 

Montefusco's mother is a speech therapist at Redding Elementary School. 

The University of Connecticut in a statement Monday said Montefusco was a senior studying finance. He had earned a Bank of America Merrill Lynch analyst internship and membership in the Delta Sigma Pi professional business fraternity.

“Cole exemplified the UConn spirit in his academic perseverance, community involvement and pursuit of his goals,” the school said in the statement.

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Fraudulent check passing in Pawling under investigation

An attempted theft at a bank in Pawling is under investigation.  New York State Police from the Dover Plains barracks are investigating the use of a fraudulent check at the Key Bank of over 3-thousand dollars.  Anyone with information on the possible identity or location of female suspect are asked to contact Investigator Zittel at (845) 677-7300, and reference case #9389916.

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Helicopters spotted in Danbury were headed to Army Reserve Center

If you saw four big helicopters flying in the Danbury area Friday evening and again yesterday afternoon, they were travelling to and from a training exercise.  The four army helicopters were spotted in the downtown area.  The National Guard operates The Armed Forces Reserve Center on Wooster Heights Road.

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Grease fire on New Fairfield porch extends to exterior walls

A reported grease fire on a porch in New Fairfield extended to the exterior walls last night. New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department responded to Musket Ridge Road around 9:30pm and quickly knocked down the flames.  Fire officials say they also had to deal with a propane tank on scene.  No injuries were   reported.  The blaze is under investigation by fire Marshall.

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Reported boiler fire extinguished in Brookfield

A reported fire in a hot water heater at a Brookfield home earlier this morning was contained to the boiler.  Firefighters responded to the call shortly before 5am and shut the boiler off.  There was no extension to the residence and the scene was turned over to the fire marshals office.  The Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company is reminding residents to have yearly routine maintenance on their home heating and water heating systems to ensure they are clean and operating correctly.

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Stony Hill firefighters remind residents of proper ash disposal

Recently, Stony Hill Volunteer firefighters responded to an activated carbon monoxide alarm. While ventilating the home from the high levels of CO, members located a cardboard box outside filled with ash from the wood stove.  Fire officials are reminding residents to safely remove ash into a metal container, then fill it with water and leave the container outside.  It should be placed away from any structures or dry vegetation before disposing.

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Newtown Police investigating credit card fraud case

Newtown Police are attempting to identify the suspect in an investigation that involves the unauthorized use of a stolen credit card.  The credit card was stolen from a resident in Newtown and was used at Best Buy, the Apple Store and Starbucks, all in Danbury.  The amount was over $5,000.  The male is described to be a Hispanic, 50 to 60 years old.  Anyone who knows the identity of the individual is asked to contact Detective Frank at the Newtown Police Department at 203-426-5841.

(Photo: NPD)

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Former Danbury FCI inmate sentenced for having weapon in prison

A former Danbury Federal Correctional Institution inmate has been sentenced to two years in prison for possession of contraband in a federal prison.  According to court documents, 35-year old Julian De Jesus Castillo was found in possession of a razor blade and a 7-and-a-half inch piece of flat metal that had sharpened edges and a point at one end in February 2018.  The razor blade was discovered taped to the underside of his assigned bunk.  The other item was hidden at the base of a pillar adjacent to Castillo’s bunk.  He pleaded guilty in September.

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20-year old loses control of truck, smashes through Newtown house

Newtown Police received a 911 call from a resident early Saturday morning who reported that their house had "fallen down".  It turned out that a Ford F-350 hit the Church Hill Road home with such force that it destroyed both exterior walls, destroyed a stone and concrete wall and hit the homeowner's vehicle before finally coming to rest in the driveway.  The driver, 20-year old Andrew Anglace of Newtown, was charged with DWI, reckless operation, driving too fast for conditions and failure to drive in the proper lane.  He was released on bond for a February 19th court appearance.  Anglace and the occupants of the home were uninjured. The Red Cross was contacted to provide aid to the resident.

(Photo: NPD)

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Bethel Fire Marshal releases info on two investigations

The Bethel Fire Marshal's office has released the results of two recent investigations.  The Oak Ridge Road  home damaged in a blaze last week did not have working smoke alarms.  The fire was started accidentally in a basement bedroom due to “improperly discarded or unattended smoking material.”  The homeowner did not call 911 immediately, which caused the flames to spread, resulting in extensive structural damage and made the home uninhabitable.  The fire that destroyed three school buses last month started accidentally.  The fire marshal determined that most likely cause was an electrical failure in the engine compartment of one of the vehicles.  The investigation is ongoing, but intentional fire cause has been ruled out.  First Student replaced the van immediately.  The two-full size buses were spares.

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Man who put wife in wood chipper released from prison early

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut man convicted of killing his wife and feeding her body parts through a wood chipper has been released from prison nearly 20 years early.

Richard Crafts was sentenced to 50 years in prison in 1990 by a judge who commented on his lack of remorse. Crafts was recently released and is living in a halfway house, a state Department of Correction spokeswoman told The Hartford Courant Friday.

The 82-year-old is at a transitional housing program for veterans in Bridgeport, Karen Martucci said. He is due to finish his sentence in June, she added.

Crafts has been in prison since his 1987 arrest. A law in place at the time of his sentencing allowed for sentences to be reduced by years as a reward for good behavior and prison work. The law has since been changed.

A Norwalk Superior Court jury ruled that Crafts killed his wife, Helle, at their Newtown home in November 1986. Prosecutors said he cut the body with a chain saw and fed parts through a wood chipper on a bridge between Newtown and Southbury.

Police found tiny body parts, including a fingernail and human bone fragments, on the banks of the Housatonic River. Crafts’ first trial ended in a mistrial in July 1988 because one juror refused to continue deliberating. Crafts maintained his innocence during the trial.

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Police open fire at 'impaired' driver in Mar-a-Lago breach

PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Law enforcement agents opened fire on an SUV driver who smashed through two security checkpoints at Mar-a-Lago on Friday in what authorities described as the actions of “an obviously impaired” driver but not an intentional attack on President Donald Trump’s resort.

The driver, Hannah Roemhild, 30, of Connecticut, who identifies herself on her Facebook page as an opera singer, was later arrested at a nearby motel.  She graduated from Western Connecticut State University.  No one was injured, authorities said, and Trump was not at the Palm Beach club at the time, although he was scheduled to arrive there later in the day.

Roemhild was not at any time “even remotely close” to getting into the “inner perimeter” of the president’s resort, Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw said at a news conference.

He said Roemhild, “obviously impaired,” was dancing on top of her vehicle outside the Breakers hotel, about 3 miles from Mar-a-Lago, when an off-duty Florida Highway Patrol officer who was working hotel security approached her.

Roemhild jumped into the SUV and refused to open the window or acknowledge the officer, Bradshaw said. She then put the car in reverse and began driving away. The trooper smashed the window and tried to grab the steering wheel, but was unable to stop her, the sheriff said.

Roemhild led officers on a high-speed pursuit, at times driving on the wrong side of the road at speeds nearing 70 miles (113 kilometers), said Major Robert Chandler of the Florida Highway Patrol.

She crashed through one Mar-a-Lago checkpoint then barreled through a second, where Secret Service agents and sheriff’s deputies were barely able to avoid being hit before they opened fire, Bradshaw said. The authorities fired numerous rounds, but Roemhild kept driving and was able to get away.

Investigators believe she picked up a female relative before they later located her car using a license plate reader. Roemhild ran from her car outside a nearby motel and was tackled by a trooper, Bradshaw said.

Later Friday, the SUV could be seen in the motel’s parking lot, with both the driver’s side window and the rear window completely shattered. The parking lot was lined with red police tape and law enforcement vehicles surrounded the property.

Bradshaw said Roemhild did not appear to have a criminal record. After Friday’s events, she was going to be charged with assault on a federal officer, deadly assault on two sheriff’s deputies and traffic charges, he said.

Mar-a-Lago has been the scene of several intrusions since Trump became president. On Jan. 5, just hours after Trump and his family had left the club following a two-week vacation, a Florida man who had been dishonorably discharged from the Marines for sex offenses was arrested after he got past two checkpoints. He had falsely identified himself as part of the president’s helicopter crew.

In March 2019, Chinese national Yujing Zhang gained access to Mar-a-Lago while carrying a laptop, phones and other electronic gear. That led to initial speculation that the 33-year-old businesswoman from Shanghai might be a spy, but she was never charged with espionage. Text messages she exchanged with a trip organizer indicated she was a fan of the president and wanted to meet him or his family to discuss possible deals.

Zhang was found guilty of trespassing and lying to Secret Service agents and was sentenced to time served.

In December, the club’s security officers confronted Jing Lu, 56, for trespassing and told her to leave, but she returned to take photos. Lu was charged with loitering and resisting an officer without violence after taking photos by entering a service entrance.

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Danbury girl presents art kits to veterans at Danbury Vet Center

Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz has presented a proclamation to a 10-year-old Danbury girl as she donated art supplies this week to veterans the Danbury Vet Center.  Chelsea Phaire founded Chelsea’s Charity around her birthday last August whe she asked her party guests to bring art supplies as a donation in lieu of gifts for herself.  The organization is dedicated to providing art supplies and lessons to children in an order to promote social-emotional and mental health. 

Chelsea says her art keeps her going.  When she finishes a project, Chelsea says it helps her self esteem to see the potential she has as an artist.

Chelsea wants to expand her donations to hospitals, shelters and orphanages.  She has a website where people can purchase an art kit, made by Chelsea, for $20.  Her goal is to make 50,000 kits for kids by 2021.  She also teaches children some of her favorite art techniques, working with children on special skills. 

To date, Chelsea's Charity has distributed over 700 art kits to children and adults in New York, Connecticut, New Jersey and Texas.  She is making 300 kits for a school in Haiti next month. 

Bysiewicz leads the Govenror's Council on Women and Girls.  She says lifitng up women and girls lifts up every family in the state.  Bysiewicz works with Veteran Affiars Commission Tom Saadi, of Danbury to recognized veterans in each municipalitiy.  She honored all World War II veterans, by town, when she was Secretary of the State.  They are now honoring Korean Veterans and Vietnam Veterans.

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Danbury Museum & Historical Society opening new exhibit about Danbury Fair

Danbury Museum & Historical Society is opening a new exhibit today titled "The Fair That John Built.”  The special exhibit will be up through December of this year and focuses on 1946 through 1981 and John W Leahy’s innovations, additions, and creations. Photographs, many that have not been seen in decades and  some that have never been seen will be on display.  The museum says the exhibit will grow and change over the course of the year and will be accompanied by  special events.

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Local police attend Conn. Law Enforcement Torch Run 2020 Kick Off

The Connecticut Law Enforcement Torch Run 2020 Kick Off has been held and a number of local police departments sent representatives to the event.  New Milford Police Chief Spencer Cerruto and two officers attended.  Bethel Officer Jason Broad and Officer Amelia Fekieta were also on hand.  The Bethel Police Department raised over $2,500 last year and received an award.  Funds were raised through the Law Enforcement Special Olympics Tip a Cop and Cornhole Tournament events.  The Wilton Police Department has made it into the Top Ten in Fundraising for the Special Olympics of Connecticut. Lt. Robert Kluk and Lt. David Hartman received the award for the Department at the Annual Special Olympics Torch Run Kickoff held in Hartford this week.

 

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Himes votes to reassert Congressional war making powers

4th District Representative Jim Himes says he's proud of two votes taken in the House this week to reassert the Constitutional authority of Congress over any declarations of war that risks American lives and national security. One bill repeals the 2002 law that authorized the Iraq war, which has been used as justification for other U.S. military actions since then.  The other blocks the Trump administration from using any federal funds for unauthorized military force against Iran, unless the President is responding to an imminent threat.

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