Local Headlines Archives for 2020-07

Ridgefield Responds Residential Rent Assistance Program ends today

The Ridgefield Responds Residential Rent Assistance Program will end today. The program was put into place in early April in order to help those financially impacted by COVID-19 who needed assistance with residential rental payments.  First Selectman Rudy Marconi says he and others heard from many people that this program has been like a lifeline during this very difficult period.  Marconi says the town is grateful to the generous donors who provided the funds to make this program possible.  Those who still need assistance should contact Ridgefield Social Services at (203) 431-2777 to find out about all the available programs.

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PUSH to increase participation in the 2020 Census is on

The PUSH to increase participation in the 2020 Census is on.  A regional challenge is underway this week to see which county and major city can generate the greater self-response rate of residents to the 2020 Census.  A Census Mobile Questionnaire Assistance event is being held in Danbury this afternoon at New Hope Baptist Church.  Census takers will begin a soft launch of Census Non-Response Follow-Up operations in Fairfield and Litchfield Counties today, ahead of the August 11th official kick off.  This is the first time that the 10 year population count can be filled out online.  The event at New Hope Baptist Church is from noon to 3pm.  Residents may still self-respond to the 2020 Census until October 31.

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Federal inmates settle lawsuit over coronavirus precautions

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Federal inmates in Connecticut have agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit accusing prison officials of not doing enough to protect them from the coronavirus, including transferring vulnerable prisoners to home confinement.

Notice of the agreement involving inmates at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury was filed in U.S. District Court in Hartford on Monday and must be approved by a judge.

The settlement calls for the Bureau of Prisons to promptly identify inmates who are medically vulnerable to the coronavirus and release them to home confinement, said David Golub, a lawyer for the prisoners, who also were represented by the Quinnipiac and Yale law schools.

The lawsuit was filed in April, at the height of the pandemic in Connecticut, by four inmates, including three women and a man, claiming prison officials were not taking seriously a directive by Attorney General William Bar to maximize transfers to home confinement. The suit sought to protect all medically vulnerable inmates.

Since the pandemic began, 89 inmates and 61 staff at Danbury have recovered from the virus, and one inmate died, according to the Bureau of Prisons. As of Tuesday, one staff member was infected, but no inmates were infected. The prison houses about 1,000 inmates.

“We are gravely concerned about the well-being of people incarcerated at FCI Danbury during this pandemic,” said Quinnipiac law professor Sarah Russell, who also represented the inmates. “We are hopeful that the process set forth in the agreement will mean more medically vulnerable people will soon be safely home with their families.”

In May, U.S. District Judge Michael Shea ruled prison officials were not moving fast enough to protect inmates and ordered them to implement a process to move as many prisoners as possible to home confinement.

About 400 prisoners in Danbury have been identified as medically vulnerable as part of that process, including many who have since been released to home confinement or community placement, Russell said.

In a statement, Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham commended the Bureau of Prisons and Danbury prison staff for containing the outbreak and said the settlement preserves coronavirus protections already in place at the prison.

Last week, a federal judge approved a settlement of a similar lawsuit filed by inmates in Connecticut state prisons.

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DOT proposes Route 39 expansion by Danbury High School

The state Department of Transportation will be holding an informational hearing tonight about a proposed expansion of Route 39 in Danbury.  The intersection improvements to Clapboard Ridge Road will be made at Beckerle Street and East Gate Road, to address left-turns during peak hours. 

The public comment period is open through August 12th. 

The informational meeting at 7pm via Microsoft Teams, and will include a live Question and Answer session.  The live event will be recorded and posted for viewing during the comment period.  A written Report of Meeting will be posted following the event that captures the Q&A session, including responses to the questions by the design team.

The DOT issued a certificate to the City in 2016, agreeing to make operational and safety improvements along Route 39 if the proposed expansion to Danbury High School was completed.  The crash histories for these intersections show a pattern of rear end collisions.

The proposed improvements include minor widening of Route 39 to allow for the addition of exclusive left-turn lanes on the southbound approaches. This work will require minor modifications to the existing drainage system. The widening also impacts multiple driveways which will require reconstruction. Route 39 will be resurfaced by milling 3” and paving 3” and the traffic signals at both intersections will be replaced or modified for the new intersection configurations.

This project also proposes tree clearing to address substandard sightlines. There are right-of-way impacts four properties, which will require easements: two sightline easements (including tree clearing), one slope easement, and an easement for traffic appurtenances.

The estimated construction cost for this project is approximately $ 4.1 million. This project is anticipated to be undertaken with 80 percent Federal Funds and 20 percent State funds.

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Ridgefield Library, League of Women Voters to host voting webinar

The League of Women Voters of Ridgefield is co hosting a virtual discussion tonight about the upcoming primaries. The League typically holds in person voter information session sessions in advance of primaries and general elections, but with the restrictions on crowd sizes, tonight’s event is virtual.  The Ridgefield Registrars of Voters and Ridgefield Town Clerk will address some of the concerns that have been raised about voting access, security and safety during the pandemic for the upcoming elections.  The program is called Voting During the Time of Covid-19.  Registrants will receive the Zoom link in their confirmation and reminder emails.  Registration can be done through the events page of the Ridgefield Library's website.

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Danbury Mayor concerned about Uber boat drivers on Candlewood Lake

The Danbury Town Park and some nearby inland state swim areas remaining closed during this hot summer has resulted in some unintended consequences.  Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton says more people are staying closer to home because of the pandemic, so there’s increased use of Candlewood Lake. And an increase in litter.  While there's nothing illegal about using the lake, Boughton says he's gotten reports about Uber boat drivers running people out to the islands for $10 a ride.  They're bringing coolers, there's alcohol consumption and fights break out.  Boughton says it's been rough out there for enforcement.  He also discouraged people from swimming illegally in reservoirs and other private bodies of water.

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Confidential reporting forms about COVID regulation compliance online

The Danbury Department of Health & Human Services has created a confidential reporting form for residents to fill out online if they have any concerns about how businesses are operating during the COVID-19 crisis.  City officials say the health department can follow up appropriately and ensure proper protocols are followed. 

https://www.cognitoforms.com/DanburyHealthDepartment/COVID19ReportOfBusinessConcerns

The State also created a Business Complaint Form.  The state form is more comprehensive and is intended for complaints that pertain to requirements of the Sector Rules only.

https://appengine.egov.com/apps/ct/COVID-19/Reopen-CT-Business-Complaint-Form

On the City report form, in addition to basic information about the business, complainants are asked whether the business should not be open, is allowing food self-service, is allowing dine-in service above capacity, or a blank to explain another reason. 

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Danbury to honor Marian Anderson with mural at Kennedy Park

Danbury plans to honor City native Marian Anderson.  Mayor Mark Boughton says they're still working out the details, but the plan is to honor the singer with a mural on the building at Kennedy Park. 

In 1939, the Daughters of the American Revolution refused permission for Anderson to sing to an integrated audience in Constitution Hall in Washington, DC.  First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt arranged to have Anderson performed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in the capital. 

The current mural has been up on the building for more than a decade. The City plans to put out a call to artists soon.   Boughton says the location is fitting considering that Anderson sang at John F. Kennedy's inauguration. 

The Danbury Museum and Historical Society owns the Marion Anderson studio.  They have a number of dresses in storage, many of which she designed and created herself for her performances.  The Museum will make the dresses available for viewing to the selected artist. 

The City plans to partner with Savings Bank of Danbury to pay for the mural.  Boughton says he was waiting to time the mural with Anderson's likeness appearing on the $5 bill, but that's been delayed. 

WCSU is also tying to raise money to put her name on the West Side performance hall.

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USDA sponsored distribution truck coming to Danbury

Some Danbury officials have partnered with Friendly Hands Food Bank to bring a USDA sponsored distribution truck to Danbury on August 5th.  State Representative David Arconti, Board of Ed member Joe Britton and Councilmen Roberto Alves, Frank Salvatore and Farley Santos worked with The United Way, Danbury Public Schools and Travis Tanuis for the distribution event.  They'll be giving out 1,400 boxes of fresh produce to the Danbury community. It will be comply with COVID-related social distancing guidelines and contactless.

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Himes touts House passage of the Great American Outdoors Act

The U.S. House has passed the Great American Outdoors Act, fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund and establishes the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund.  4th District Congressman Jim Himes says the $900 million dollars dedicated to the LWCF support the $887 billion outdoor recreation industry, one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy, and protects natural areas from development, an important element of climate stewardship.  In the past, the LWCF has provided funds to help Connecticut acquire or expand treasures like Sherwood Island, Weir Farm, Carwin Park, Oyster Shell Park, the Stamford Nature Center, Johnson Oak Park, Jennings Beach, and many other outdoor recreation spaces.  Himes says this renewed, dedicated funding will lead to opportunities to acquire and protect more public land for Connecticut families to enjoy.

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Local lawmaker pushes state to allow hybrid school reopening plans

State Senator Will Haskell, whose district includes Bethel, Redding and Ridgefield, has sent a letter to Governor Lamont urging his administration to give more flexibility to local school districts in developing COVID-19 plans.  Haskell says individual school districts should determine how and when to re-open for in-person classes.  He wants them to be allowed to put in place hybrid plans that reduce the risk of infection without falling behind on valid school days.

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Connecticut House approves police accountability measures

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The Connecticut House of Representatives on Friday morning approved a wide-ranging police accountability proposal after an all-night debate that was marked by a failed attempt to strip a contentious section that would remove some legal immunity for police officers.

The House voted 86-58 in favor of the bill and sent it to the state Senate, a day after hundreds of police officers rallied at the Capitol to protest portions the legislation. The Senate is expected to take up that and three other bills on Tuesday.

The police accountability bill, originally negotiated between both Democrats and Republicans, calls for reforming police practices and training in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd and other Black people. It includes a new inspector general to investigate police use-of-force cases, periodic mental health screenings for officers, new limits on circumstances in which deadly use of force is justified, mandatory body cameras for all departments and training on implicit bias.

The most contentious section, opposed by police and municipal leaders, would strip officers of qualified immunity in some circumstances when they violate someone’s civil rights, allowing them to be sued and held personally liable. Police leaders say the provision would prompt many officers to resign or retire and deter people from becoming officers.

An amendment to delete that provision from the bill failed on a tie vote.

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Newtown shares PURA guidance on Residential Shut-Off Moratorium

Newtown officials sharing guidance from the Public Utility Regulatory Authority about the Residential Shut-Off Moratorium, which is scheduled to end for the majority of customers on September 9th.  That's when the Governor's Public Health Emergency Executive Order expire.  Un the meantime, PURA is encouraging people to familiarize themselves with the details of the COVID-19 Payment Program and to call their utility to enroll no later than November 1st, if the customer would benefit from a flexible payment arrangement.

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New Milford Police receive grant to crack down on distracted drivers

New Milford Police Chief Spencer Cerruto is stepping up enforcement of distracted driving laws.  He is warning drivers not to text and drive.  Cerruto cited national statistics showing that a motorist who texts and drives is 23 times more likely to have a car crash.  The New Milford Police Department has received a Distracted Driving Enforcement Grant and will be proactively enforcing distracted driving laws during the entire month of August.  Cerruto says voluntary compliance is the goal, but infraction tickets will be issued to offenders.

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Updated sector rules issued by state

The Wilton health department is sharing updated sectors rules from the Commissioner of Economic Development for non-essential businesses and restaurants.  Non-essential businesses have the right to refuse service to anyone not wearing a mask.  Restaurant servers are no longer required to wear gloves and hotels are now allowed to provide non-essential services and amenities like having valets and ice machines.

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Wilton to realize savings from switch to state health benefit plan

As of July 1st, Wilton transitioned to the State Partnership Plan for health benefits for police, fire, parks and grounds and administrative town union employees.  Non-union employees also transitioned to the Plan.  Wilton First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice called it a win-win for employees and the Town. The transition is expected to generate approximately $600,000 in savings versus the previous self-insured plan.  $300,000 of the savings was already reflected in the FY2021 approved budget.  Vanderslice says this assisted the Board of Selectmen in achieving a FY2021 budget 1.77% lower than the FY2020 budget.  In August, the Board of Selectmen will discuss whether any of the additional savings should be used to reinstate some of the funding reductions to the FY2021 Wilton Library and Trackside grants.

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GOP primary set for 26th State Senate District

In addition to voting for presidential candidates during next month's primary, there is also a Republican primary for the 26th state Senate district seat.  The party endorsed candidate is Kim Healy of Wilton.  Will Duff of Bethel garnered enough delegate support to force a primary.  They are each looking to unseat freshman Democrat Will Haskell.  The district includes parts of Bethel, Redding, Ridgefield, Weston, Wilton, Westport and New Canaan.

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Conn. House starts debate on police accountability bill proposal

Debate has started on a wide-ranging police accountability bill that calls for reforming police practices and training in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd and other Black people.

Police officers and their supporters had warning for lawmakers who support what they consider “an anti-police bill,” with many chanting “vote them out.” Members of the General Assembly are up for reelection in November.

While there were mixed feelings about various parts of the bill, officers appeared to uniformly oppose a provision that would change immunity protections for police in some circumstances for violating someone’s civil rights. Also, many officers complained they felt unfairly targeted because of the actions of the officers in Minneapolis, who killed Floyd, and other “bad cops” across the country.

John Krupinsky, president of the Connecticut State Fraternal Order of Police and a 41-year veteran Danbury police officer, said he opposes the entire bill, which includes a new inspector general to investigate police use-of-force cases, periodic mental health screenings for officers, changes to the state’s “use of force” policy, moving from a subjective standard to a more objective standard; and new training requirements for police, including on implicit bias and how to manage crowds of people.

Krupinsky predicted the legislation will have a chilling effect on the police profession in Connecticut.

“People don’t understand. Guys, when they hear the shots fired call, they’re going to take a right. They’re not going to put themselves in the middle of this. They’ve got a chance to go to jail now. They’ve got a chance to have their house taken away,” he said. “Policing as you know it is over.”

In recent days, lawmakers have been making last-minute changes to the police accountability bill, including the portion that would ban “qualified immunity,” making officers personally and legally liable for their actions. House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said the latest version would change the statute of limitations for lawsuits against officers and make it clear the municipality where the officer works would be liable, not the officer personally, which she said is also untenable considering the financial exposure to taxpayers.

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Man charged for swinging pipe at construction worker during road rage incident

A New York man has been arrested for allegedly swinging a pipe at a construction worker during a road rage incident in Newtown.  Police were dispatched to High Rock Road on Wednesday for a report of a disturbance at a work site on the roadway.  An investigation determined that 53-year old Henrri Mota-Salcedo of the Bronx nearly collided with another vehicle after ignoring a worker directing traffic at the construction zone.  Newtown Police say he then got out of his vehicle, took a metal pipe from the bed of his truck, and became violent. None of the individuals involved were injured.  Mota-Salcedo was charged with reckless driving and breach of peace. He was released for an August 5th court appearance.

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Putnam County Sheriff calls opposes gun restriction bill for peace officers

The Putnam County Sheriff is speaking out about another police reform in New York.  Sheriff Robert Langley says a bill introduced in the State Assembly would have a grave impact on all Peace Officers--the entire New York City Sheriff’s Department who execute violent warrants, New York State Court Officers , Parole Officers, Probation Officers and Constables.  The proposed bill would prohibit a Peace Officer from carrying or using a firearm during the scope of employment.  The New York State Sheriffs’ Association says peace officers also include school resource officers and campus safety officers.  The Sheriff's say that unarmed correction officers conducting prisoner transport or civil deputies serving orders of protection would be impractical and dangerous for the officers involved.

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Two people injured in rollover accident in Roxbury

Two people had to be extricated from a pickup truck in Roxbury this week after the driver fell asleep behind the wheel.  State Police responded to Route 67 shortly before midnight on Wednesday on a report of a rollover accident.  The truck went down an embankment as well.  State Police say the driver was headed eastbound, struck a guide rail and struck a tree.  Both the drier and passenger were semi-conscious when they were extricated.  The 63-year-old Fairfield man complained of head, neck and chest pain and transported to Danbury Hospital.  A 63-year-old Southbury woman was transported to the hospital with head, arm and leg injuries. State police are investigating the crash.

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Masks required on Norwalk River Valley Trail

Questions continue to come in to Wilton officials about masks on the Norwalk River Valley Trail. Except in the case of a medical exemption, masks are required when in public and 6 feet of distance cannot be maintained.  When two people approach each other from the opposite direction on the trail, if both move to the edge, the distance in between will be at least six feet.  When a group approaches another person or another group, they too should move to the edge of the trail and go single file until everyone passes.  People should carry a mask in case people don't move to the edge.

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Court upholds Alex Jones sanctions in Sandy Hook case

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The Connecticut Supreme Court on Thursday upheld a sanction against Infowars host Alex Jones over an angry outburst on his web show against an attorney for relatives of some of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting victims, who are suing him for defamation.

The court issued a 7-0 decision rejecting Jones’ claims that his comments aimed at attorney Christopher Mattei were protected by free speech rights, and upholding a lower court’s ruling that Jones violated numerous orders to turn over documents to the families’ lawyers.

The lower court judge barred Jones from filing a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, as a penalty for his actions.

The families of eight victims of the 2012 shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, and an FBI agent who responded to the massacre are suing Jones, Infowars and others for promoting a theory that the shooting was a hoax. A 20-year-old gunman killed 20 first-graders, six educators and himself at the school, after having killed his mother at their Newtown home.

The families said they have been subjected to harassment and death threats from Jones’ followers because of the hoax conspiracy.

Jones, whose show is based in Austin, Texas, has since said he believes the shooting occurred.

The sanction came after Jones, on Infowars last year, accused Mattei of planting child pornography that was found in email metadata files that Jones turned over to the Sandy Hook families’ lawyers. Jones’ former lawyer, Norman Pattis, who argued the case before the state Supreme Court, has said the pornography was in emails sent to Jones that were never opened.

“You’re trying to set me up with child porn,” Jones said on the show. “One million dollars, you little gang members. One million dollars to put your head on a pike.”

Jones mentioned Mattei by name and pounded on a picture of Mattei while saying, “I’m gonna kill ... Anyway I’m done. Total war. You want it, you got it.”

In Thursday’s decision, Connecticut Chief Justice Richard Robinson wrote, “We recognize that there is a place for strong advocacy in litigation, but language evoking threats of physical harm is not tolerable.”

Pattis, who withdrew as Jones’ attorney without explanation in May, said Thursday that he could no longer speak on behalf of Jones.

“Personally, I’m disappointed by the Supreme Court’s lackluster commitment to the first amendment,” Pattis said in an email to The Associated Press. “I hope Mr. Jones seeks U.S. Supreme Court review.”

An email message seeking comment was sent to Jones and Infowars on Thursday.

Joshua Koskoff, a lawyer for the families, said in a statement that the ruling was a win for the integrity of the court system.

“As other branches of government show signs of cracking under the weight of threats and falsehoods, this ruling reminds us that the courtroom is still a sacred place that remains dedicated to the truth, to precedent and to long-established rules created over centuries,” he said.

Sandy Hook families sued Jones and others in several states for defamation related to the hoax conspiracy.

Last year in one of the lawsuits, a Texas judge ordered Jones to pay $100,000 in legal fees and refused to dismiss the suit. And a jury in Wisconsin awarded $450,000 to one of the parents in his lawsuit against conspiracy theorist writers, not including Jones, who claimed the massacre never happened.

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Bids being accepted for architectural services for Ellsworth Avenue School Annex in Danbury

Danbury is looking for architectural services for the Ellsworth Avenue School Annex.  Interested firms must submit information about design and construction plans to the City's Purchasing Agency by August 6th.  The annex will include 7 classrooms in the Family and Community Engagement Center on Osborne Street to accommodate pre-k and elementary school students.  Danbury has applied to the state to cover 63-percent of eligible costs on the $7 million to $8 million project.  Designs could be completed by January, with the year-long construction starting in June.  Students would then be in the new classrooms in the fall of 2022.

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Easton firefighter, K9 earn search recertification

Easton Volunteer Fire Department member Peter Neary and his K-9 partner, Holly, have successfully completed their International Police Work Dog Association recertification in 40 Acre Wilderness Air Scent search. The skill-based test requires the team to locate up to two victims within a 40 acre wilderness search area.  The pair are part of the Easton Search & Rescue Taskforce, a team of trained firefighters and EMS personnel that work with the Easton Police when It is necessary to conduct Search and Rescue responsibilities in many of the wilderness areas throughout rural Easton.

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Southbury Police investigating thefts from cars

A wallet, with credit and debit cards along with an ID, was taken from an unlocked car in Southbury in the early morning hours Tuesday.  Police say a second vehicle in the area of Ridgeview Road was also rifled through, but nothing was taken.  The homeowner had a Ring Camera and police reviewed the footage.  It showed the car doors being opened around 2:30am.  A neighbor, within a mile, also had a home surveillance system and found two juvenile males run up to two vehicles in a driveway, pull on locked door handles and run away.  The footage of the juveniles, about 15 minutes later, showed one wearing a grey hoodie with red sweat pants and one wearing a black hoodie with red sweat pants.  Southbury Police are investigating the incidents.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Officer Carter.  The Southbury Police Department is urging residents to secure their vehicles at all times and advises against keeping valuables in their vehicle.

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GOP Congressional candidate questions incumbent's stance on return to school

The Republican looking to unseat freshman Democratic Congresswoman Jahana Hayes is questioning her support of a 300 billion dollar education funding bill to help schools reopen and provide distance learning.  Hearst Media reports that David Sullivan called it  binge spending that can’t possibly be justified by actual needs.  Hayes is the 2016 National Teacher of the Year.  Sullivan, a former federal prosecutor, teaches law courses at the Yale University, University of New Haven and Quinnipiac University School of Law.  Sullivan says Hayes has given nothing but excuses for why schools can't reopen while he's taught both in the classroom and via distance learning during this pandemic

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Putnam County Sheriff directs deputies not to take enforcement action in NYC

Putnam County Sheriff Robert Langley is directing his deputies not to conduct any enforcement action within the confines of the City of New York.  This is a direct response to legislative action there about the temporary restraint of a combative subject while being taken into custody and handcuffed. 

Langley believes that kneeling on someone’s back is a safe, momentary restraint technique to reduce the risk of injury to both the subject and law enforcement. 

Several Westchester County Police agencies previously prohibited their officers from entering the borders of New York City now that the offense is punishable as a misdemeanor.  The only standing exception for Putnam County Sheriff's Department members to enforcement action is to pick up a prisoner already in the custody of another agency.  Other requests must be made before action is taken. 

Langley says the directive is meant to protect deputies from criminal prosecution for actions consistent with their training and department policy.

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Brookfield emergency responders recover sunken vessel from Candlewood

Brookfield emergency responders have recovered a sunken vessel from Candlewood Lake.  Less than a week after a joint training with the Brookfield Police Department‘s dive team, DEEP requested the investigation of a report of a sunken boat.  Candlewood Company responded Sunday night after a witness said they saw a boat overturn.  Marine 25's sonar located the vessel.  DEEP determined that the operator was able to escape and it became a recovery missing.  Since it was well into the night, the position was marked and Monday morning Marine 25 and the dive team returned to finish the job.  The boat was pushed to the surface and the vessel was taken on board Marine 25 to be delivered to DEEP, which took possession of the boat and its contents.

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Ridgefield town-wide COVID-19 testing Saturday cancelled

The Ridgefield town-wide COVID-19 testing scheduled for Saturday, has been cancelled.  Docs Medical Group, which has provided three other town-wide drive through tests will no longer be able to get the rapid test kits.  People receive results within just a few days with these kits, but they are being reallocated to nursing homes.  First Selectman Rudy Marconi says he is disappointed with the cancellation as quite of few Ridgefielders had signed up for the testing. He urges those who want or need a test to contact their primary care provider or an urgent care facility as there may still be some rapid tests available in their facilities.  Marconi says Docs Medical Group on Padanaram Road in Danbury still has some kits available.

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Redding man arrested for alleged threats towards law enforcement

A Redding man has been arrested for allegedly making threats towards law enforcement.  37-year old Greg McGuiness was charged after he posted photos holding an AK-47 assault rifle and making comments about shooting at police officers.  The photos and message were sent to a friend over FaceTime and through instant messaging.  That friend reported the incident to police.  McGuiness was released for arraignment next Friday in Danbury on charges of possession of an illegal firearm, criminal weapon possession, reckless endangerment, negligent storage of a firearm, illegal possession of a large capacity magazine, illegal possession of an assault rifle, threatening and breach of peace.

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New Milford parents critical of school reopening plan

The New Milford Board of Education held a meeting this week and a majority of the public speakers were critical of the fall reopening plan.  Some respondents called the plan too vague, others called it dangerous because of the risk of kids bringing home COVID-19 to parents.  New Milford residents questioned why schools would be able to reopen at full capacity when restaurants are still at 50-percent and bars are still closed. 

A virtual public hearing is scheduled for August 5th. 

Local districts must submit reopening plans to the state by tomorrow and then will get more guidance so more details can be added to the plans. 

Superintendent Kerry Parker, like other area district leaders, would prefer to start with the hybrid model, but the state wants schools to fully reopen. Under thy hybrid model, half of the students are in the schools on Monday and Tuesday, no one on Wednesday to allow for a thorough cleaning and then the other half of the students in-person on Thursday and Friday.  Distance learning would take place the other three days. 

The Newstimes reports that 30 percent of families already decided to not have their children return in person.

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Water line needed for new school in Brookfield

A waterline was planned for the New School Project in Brookfield and it would need to be in place before the start of construction.  Project Manager Greg Dembowski says the waterline would go up Candlewood Lake Road to Huckleberry Hill Elementary School.  The estimated cost is about $1.8 million.  A special appropriation for the water line extension meets the Governor's Executive Order that a town meeting is not necessary because of the pandemic.  The Selectmen then sent the request to the Board of Finance to authorize the special appropriation.

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Bethel girl recognized for saving grandmother's life with CPR

Stony Hill Volunteer Fire Company has recognized a Bethel girl for helping to save her grandmother's life.  Arlene Sullivan collapsed and went into cardiac arrest in May. Through the combined efforts of her granddaughter Kaitlyn’s early CPR efforts, Stony Hill EMS, Bethel Police and Danbury Hospital Paramedics, Arlene has made a full recovery.  Kaitlyn was presented with a CPR Save pin earlier this week.  Fire Company officials say these pins are traditionally given to responders when a victim recovers from cardiac arrest.

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State Board of Ed issues memo about school reopening plan requirements

Danbury Public School district officials have asked the state to approve a hybrid reopening plan for the fall due to the size of the school population, space restrictions in buildings and social distancing requirements.  The State Board of Education issued a memo yesterday reminding districts that they must submit 3 plans to the state by Friday, and if one of them isn't a proposal to have kids in classrooms 5 days a week, the district would not be in compliance with state law on the required number of school days.  The other two plans to be submitted are a hybrid model of in person and distance learning, and a plan for only distance learning.

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Congresswoman raises concern about bid process for Farmers to Families Food Box program

During a recent Agricultural Committee hearing in Washington, 5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes questioned the bid award process for the Farmers to Families Food Box program.  While she commended the department for acting in real time to try to address a problem, Hayes voiced concern that there won't be changes in the next round.  The application period opens at the end of the week for the program, which was promoted as a solution to the disruption experienced by farmers and the need for food at local food banks during the pandemic.  Hayes says small farmers in the 5th District were left out of the program.  There were numerous stories of farmers having to dump milk because of supply chain disruptions caused by school and restaurant closures, at a time when food banks were experiencing higher demand than usual.

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Easton, Redding, Region 9 plan to survey parents on return to schools

The Easton, Redding, Region 9 school districts will release detailed reopening draft plans to parents this week.  A survey will also be sent out about whether parents will send their children to school, drive them instead of using the bus and send them with their own a Chromebook or laptop.  The survey also asks if the students need additional social or emotional support.  Like other school districts, there will be extra costs associated with reopening amid the pandemic.  The schools will have to hire additional custodians, substitute teachers, monitors, cleaning supplies, technology and PPE.

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New Naugatuck Valley Community College center to be created in Danbury

The state Bond Commission has approved funding to create a new Naugatuck Valley Community College center in Danbury at Western Connecticut State University.  Part of the lump sum will be used for design, construction and equipment.  $2.75 million will go to finance equipment and facilities improvements to support the advanced manufacturing and emerging technology programs for the Connecticut State College and University System.  Funds will also support renovations for a new Tunxis Community College center and system-wide program equipment upgrades and improvements.  The Bond Commission approved $5.625 million for the work.

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Newtown Police investigate another rash of thefts from cars

Newtown Police are investigating another rash of thefts from cars.  During the overnight hours Saturday into Sunday, there were 3 cars along Orchard Hill Road and Joan Drive had items taken from them.  One person reported that their car was unlocked at the time and had a cell phone charger and a few dollars taken from inside.  Newtown Police say the cars on Joan Drive were also unlocked.  A wallet and about 15 dollars in change were taken.  Police say most of the thefts of and from vehicles are because the cars were unlocked.  None of the burglarized cars were damaged.  Residents and visitors are reminded to lock unoccupied vehicles, not leave keys inside and remove all valuables.  Newtown Police are asking people check their surveillance systems for suspicious activity.

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College student pleads not guilty to second murder charge

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A college student who avoided capture in several states for six days after a homicide, kidnapping and home invasion spree in Connecticut pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a second murder charge and other crimes.

Peter Manfredonia, 23, a former University of Connecticut student, took part in the arraignment at Milford Superior Court via a video feed from the courthouse detention area. A judge set bail at $5 million on the new charges, adding to the $7 million in bail imposed previously on another murder charge and other alleged crimes.

The new charges are connected to the fatal shooting of Nicholas Eisele and the kidnapping of his girlfriend in Derby on May 24. The girlfriend, who has not been named by authorities, was found unharmed at a rest stop near Columbia, New Jersey, later the same day.

Eisele was killed two days after police allege Manfredonia killed 62-year old Ted DeMers and seriously wounded another man in a Samurai sword attack in Willington, about 70 miles from Derby. After the sword attack, Manfredonia is accused of breaking into another man’s house in Willington and holding him hostage for about 24 hours before taking off with his truck and firearms, police said.

Relatives of Manfredonia and Eisele were in court Tuesday, as well as a lawyer for Eisele’s girlfriend. The lawyer, Eugene Riccio, read a statement by her.

“Nicholas Eisele will forever be remembered as a loving, protective boyfriend but also a hero following his own selfless actions on that day,” the statement said. “The healing process can not begin until we can be assured that justice has been served and Peter Manfredonia is held accountable for his actions that altered and destroyed the lives of both Nick, myself, and countless others.”

Manfredonia’s lawyer, Michael Dolan, declined to comment on the charges. Manfredonia wore an orange prison jumpsuit and a mask because of coronavirus precautions, appearing via the video feed. His parents were in court, but left before the proceeding began, Dolan said.

“To see their son in custody was very difficult,” Dolan said. “It’s just a very sad day. The entire Manfredonia family is just ... heartbroken. Their hearts go out ... for all the families.”

The new arrest warrant affidavit in Eisele’s killing provides the first public account by his girlfriend of the harrowing events in Derby.

The woman told police that Manfredonia burst into her and Eisele’s apartment shortly before 6 a.m. She said the two men knew each other from growing up in Newtown, and Manfredonia had come to the apartment a few months earlier to buy marijuana from Eisele.

She said the men got into a fight and Manfredonia shot Eisele. Then, she said, Manfredonia forced her to drive him in her car out of state.

During the drive through Newtown and to New Jersey, Manfredonia told her he killed Eisele and DeMers because they said things that made him snap, but he did not elaborate.

Dolan has said that Manfredonia had a history of depression and anxiety, but had never shown signs of violence.

After Manfredonia let the woman go in New Jersey, investigators tracked him to Pennsylvania, where police said he took an Uber to a Walmart in East Stroudsburg. Authorities searched the area but didn’t find him. A man fitting his description was later spotted near Scranton, Pennsylvania, prompting another search there.

Police believe Manfredonia stole a car and abandoned it in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, before taking another Uber to Hagerstown, Maryland, where he was captured without incident when police spotted him near a truck stop.

Manfredonia previously pleaded not guilty to murder, attempted murder, home invasion and other charges connected to the events in Willington.

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Homeless man pleads not guilty in railroad death

A homeless man charged with manslaughter in Danbury has entered a plea of not guilty.  46-year old Carlos Enrique Guzman-Lopez also faces an assault charge for the death of a man found by the railroad tracks last month.  An investigation was launched June 24th after a man was found lying face down in heavy brush.  He was later identified as 60-year-old Ricardo Uruchima.  Police say he suffered multiple blunt force trauma strikes to his head and upper body.  The man's death was ruled a homicide.  Guzman-Lopez is being held on a $1 million bond and has a pre-trial scheduled for October 2nd.

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Bill proposed to elevate Weir Farm from national historic site to national park

4th District Congressman Jim Himes has introduced a bill to elevate the status of Weir Farm from a national historic site to a national park.  He testified last week before the Natural Resources Committee’s National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee.  Himes says the current status doesn't capture the complexity and full scope of the property.  A  site generally indicates a single building or historic location, but Himes says Weir Farm is much more.  The former home of American Impressionistic painter Julian Alden Weir is just one of two national sites dedicated to the arts.  The nearly 70 acres boasts more than 250 historic painting sites as well as 16 historic buildings, a “vast collection” of American art, orchards, landscapes, trails, gardens, miles of stone walls.  The farm monitors and shares information about the area’s climate, water quality and forest health with other parts of the region.

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Danbury City Council committee to examine Matrix redevelopment tax deal

A group of Danbury City Council members will be coordinating a tax structure for the soon to be redeveloped Matrix Center.  The Mayor's Office and Summit Development have agreed in principle  three-part tax deal.  The annual property tax assessment would be $860,000.  The developer would pay a City Services fee for 19 years, starting at $550,000 annually, which could offset any increase in student enrollment.  Summit Development would drop its assessment appeal if everything is approved.  The City assessed the former Union Carbide property in 2008 when the Matrix building was sold for $73 million.  Summit bought the building in 2018 for $18 million.  The City Council ad hoc committee will go through the fine print and recommend formal approval, as early as next month.

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New charges filed against Newtown High School graduate

State Police have released the arrest warrant and booking photo for Peter Manfredonia, the Newtown High School graduate who allegedly killed two people and committed other crimes during the 6 day manhunt.  According to the warrant, Nicholas Eisele’s girlfriend woke to commotion and heard him telling someone to “relax”.  Her affidavit included the moment she “heard the shots” that police say killed her boyfriend followed by her kidnapping.  The 23-year old UConn student is now charged for those crimes.  He was arrested last month on murder and other charges for crimes that police say occurred in Willington.  The woman told investigators that she asked Manfredonia to call to get medical help for her boyfriend, but he responded that he shot the man in the head. Manfredonia reportedly detailed the killing committed two days earlier, a home invasion, and the ensuing manhunt.  Manfredonia will be arraigned today on the new charges. 

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Wilton looks into expanding housing options in town

One topic that didn’t make it into this week's special session of the General Assembly, but which could possibly be considered in a future special session, is housing.  Wilton First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice says there is increasing momentum to reform zoning as a means of addressing economic, educational and housing disparities.  Proposed reforms include shifting some local zoning authority to the State.  Over the last several years, Wilton officials have discussed the need for additional diverse housing to meet demand, attract new residents and maintain the Town's economic vitality.  The updated Plan of Conservation and Development states that Wilton recognizes the need to diversify its housing stock in order to accommodate all life stages, including its workforce, families with children, single-persons, and empty nesters. At tonight's Board of Selectmen meeting, members will discuss forming a Wilton Housing Committee. That discussion and proposed committee will be separate from any statewide efforts.

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Truck driver reports getting cut off before fiery rollover on I-84

State Police say a semi-truck was cut off by an unknown box truck on Friday and that led to the fiery rollover crash that snarled traffic for hours.  State Police say the driver reported to Troopers that the other vehicle "unsafely merged” onto the highway from the Exit 5 westbound on-ramp.  The 28-year old driver tried to brake, lost control and swerved toward the center median, hitting the barrier.  After the larger truck rolled, it was leaking diesel fuel.  The truck blocked all three lanes of the highway and caught fire. The driver sustained minor injuries.

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Ridgefield to conduct another town-wide test event

Ridgefield is conducting another round of COVID-19 testing for all residents.  The testing will take place this Saturday--at a new location.  An appointment is required for the test event at Scott’s Ridge Middle School from 11am to 3pm.  The last appointment time is 2:30. No prescription is required and all residents are encouraged to be tested.  On the day of the test, you must bring your license and insurance card.  Uninsured residents can also sign up for an appointment.  The tests are first come/registered, first served. There will be limited tests for non-registered Ridgefield residents, so people are encouraged to register in advance.

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Local lawmaker concerned about Police Accountability Bill

A nearly 12 hour public listening session on police reform proposals in Connecticut culminates with a special session of the General Assembly today.  State Senator Tony Hwang, whose district includes Newtown, says the short notice of Friday's session is concerning and he thinks a rushed approach to an emotionally charged issue affecting many lives needs to be slowed down.  Hwang says he and his colleagues must fully examine any unintended consequences to law enforcement to maintain public safety and municipal financial and legal liability that would occur if law enforcement lost its qualified immunity.  While he supports taking a closer look at the accountability and transparency of Connecticut’s police force, he notes that recent measures have strengthen police oversight and social justice. 

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Brookfield schools to purchase laptops, Chromebooks

300 Laptops and  400 Chromebooks are being purchased by the Brookfield Public School District in response to the COVID-19 Pandemic. The $264,000 purchase is part of the plan for the return to the classroom in the fall.  Superintendent of Schools John Barile and the School Technology Director recently gave an overview to the Board of Selectmen of the request.  The Selectmen then sent the matter to the Board of Finance to authorize the money coming from the town's Contingency Fund.

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CityCenter seeks members for Architectural Advisory Committee

CityCenter Danbury has three vacancies on the Architectural Advisory Committee.  The group reviews signage and architectural design of all buildings, facades and other structures to ensure that they fit the downtown character.  The appointment is for a one-year term.  Members typically have backgrounds as engineers, designers or architects and live or work in Danbury.  The committee meets twice a month if there are applications to discuss.  The Danbury Planning Director has final approval of committee members appointed by the CityCenter Danbury Board of Commissioners.  Interested applicants should send their resume to CityCenter, 268 Main St., or email the materials to info@citycenterdanbury.com with “AAC Volunteer Opportunity” in the subject line.

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Residents urged to keep cool during heat wave

Newtown Emergency Management and Health District are offering some reminders for residents during this heat wave.  COVID-19 precautions remain in place, but anyone seeking relief from the heat is encouraged to visit the municipal center during business hours, or the Newtown Community Center.  Residents should call ahead to be sure the timing of the visit can be accommodated.  People are urged to call elderly neighbors to be certain they are doing ok in this weather.  Pets should be kept out of the sun.

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Newtown has vacancies on several commissions, seeks volunteers

Newtown residents are being called on to volunteer to fill a vacancies and openings on the several boards and commissions.  The Conservation Commission has an opening available to a Republican or an unaffiliated voter. The Board of Ethics has an alternate vacancy available.  There is one opening for a Constable.  Interested parties apply by July 31st.  The Design Advisory Board in Newtown and the Sustainable Energy Commission each have a vacancy available to resident. The design position is for an alternate.  Interested parties apply by July 31st.  The Bike & Trail Committee has a vacant position available to a Democrat or unaffiliated voter.

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Sen. Chris Murphy visits federally funded health center in Danbury

Senator Chris Murphy on Friday stopped by the Greater Danbury Community Health Center to see how the federally funded site has been conducting coronavirus testing.  While he touted the work done here to control the spread, Murphy cautioned against complacency.  He says a great deal of work went into Connecticut going from a hotspot to a success story in a relatively short period of time.  He plans to take information from those on the front lines back to Washington as he makes a case for more federal assistance to ensure ample testing and infection-control equipment. Danbury has two federally funded community health centers, both of which are now offering expand free testing, with pop-up testing sites, mobile testing, and expanded hours.

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Bethel School District releases proposed plan for reopening school buildings

The Bethel Public School District has released a draft plan for reopening school buildings this fall.  

Superintendent Christine Carver told the Board of Education that cleaning, social distancing and other changes will cost about $1.9 million, but there is state and federal coronavirus relief funding and some money left from previous budgets, to cover the tab.  There are three plans in the works: a full reopening, a hybrid model and one for distance learning. 

The hybrid plan is the same as several area towns with half the kids in school buildings Mondays and Tuesdays, cleaning on Wednesdays, and the other half in classrooms Thursday and Fridays with distancing learning on the other three days.  Families will be given the option to do just distance learning. 

Bethel plans to send out a survey asking for a decision, and about whether kids will be on the bus. 

Any student missing online lessons would be treated as being absent according to the Bethel Schools reopening plan.  The lessons will not be record in order to protect student privacy.  Bethel could rent or buy tents and extend WiFi outside, so classes can be held outdoors.  Families who choose distance learning may pick up meals at the high school.  Students attending school will eat in their classrooms, according to the draft plan.

Virtual information sessions are being held tonight and tomorrow.  The meeting for Rockwell and Berry age children is from 5:30 to 7pm, and for Johnson School students from 7 to 8:30pm.  The session for Middle School parents is tomorrow from 5:30 to 7pm and high schoolers from 7 to 8:30pm.

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Some inland swim areas reopen

Inland swimming areas at eight state parks have reopened, but Squantz Pond remains closed.  Among the state parks that opened back up this weekend was Lake Waramaug in Kent.  Lifeguards are not on duty, so DEEP officials say visitors and swimmers must follow the rules and guidelines for the safety of themselves and others.  Commissioner Katie Dykes says the re-openings are the result of the improved COVID-19 situation in Connecticut and based on an analysis of available space sufficient to allow recreational usage consistent with social distancing practices.  Dykes says continued progress toward re-opening at a safe, responsible pace relies on the public’s adherence to wearing masks and social distancing.

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Newtown releases road paving plan

Newtown officials have released a road plan for the coming year.  There is a large emphasis to correct drainage problems.  In many cases, those projects are the pre-cursor to paving. 

The Public Works Department is digging up the road first for drainage, so crews don't have to destroy freshly paved roads.  But Director Fred Hurley cautioned that in some cases that's not an option due to undetected structural issues.

In addition to complete road reclamation and mill and pave projects, a number of roads will be patch paved or resurfaced with chip seal to provide a smooth riding surface. Some of the road program work involves guiderail repairs and replacement.  

All of those treatments combined will be applied to about 24.6 miles of roadway.  

In order to keep the bridge maintenance program on schedule, crews will crack seal joints and recondition the bridge decks on Turkey Hill and Buttonshop roads. Two bridges are scheduled for reconstruction, which were delayed because of permitting issues. Those are Meadowbrook and Brushy Hill over Deepbrook. The bridge funding is separate from road funding.

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Local lawmaker urges Workers Comp coverage for front line employees

Governor Lamont says Connecticut owes a debt to the health care professionals, grocery store clerks, and other essential workers who stood at their posts during the height of the pandemic. He plans to issue an executive order about providing workers who contracted COVID-19 on the job with a timely, straightforward opportunity to claim workers’ compensation benefits.  Danbury Senator Julie Kushner commented on the proposal, which came the same day she and others held a rally for the change.

The Insurance and Labor committees held a joint informational hearing on June 17 on the issue of expanding workers' compensation coverage to employees who have been hurt on the job by COVID-19 infections.

When the COVID-19 pandemic began four months ago, Kushner says the state made a promise to first responders and to essential workers that the state would be there for them because they were there for the community.

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Fund set up after Sandy Hook shooting to seek more money

NEWTOWN, Conn. (AP) — The nonprofit organization put in charge of $12.5 million in donations made after the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting is seeking more funding to stave off running out of money before the children who survived the massacre finish high school, according to a report Saturday.

The board of the Newtown-Sandy Hook Community Foundation this week sent a letter to the 26 families of victims explaining that they were about to quietly start a “targeted fundraising effort designed to raise funds for general operating expenses," according to the Hartford Courant.

The foundation had planned to continue making grants until 2025, when the youngest children who were at Sandy Hook Elementary School graduate from high school.

There was a public fight over whether the $12.5 million in donations that poured in after the shooting should go solely to the families of the 26 people killed, or include survivors of the shooting.

Eventually, $7.7 million went to 40 families directly impacted by the massacre, with the bulk of that going to the 26 families. The foundation was formed and the remaining $4.8 million was to be used to provide mental health services to the victims’ families, first responders, teachers and students from the school.

The foundation now has $1.5 million left for the next five years. They had been able to use a federal grant and income from investments to pay operating expenses so far, but the grant is running low.

Foundation Director Lucie Connell wrote in the letter that they have an opportunity to participate in a “matching challenge grant” to anchor a general fundraising operation.

“A successful general operating fundraising effort will ensure that the Foundation is staffed responsibly, allow the Foundation to channel 100 percent of the funds donated to the Sandy Hook School Support Fund to those most impacted by the tragedy and for the Foundation to fulfill the initial sunset plan,” according to the letter.

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Utility relief fund has been established by Newtown Rotary Foundation

A utility relief fund has been established by the Newtown Rotary Foundation.  The donations will go toward helping families that are unable to afford their utility bills and have fallen behind in payments due to illness, unemployment, or reduced employment income due to the COVID-19 outbreak.  The Newtown Department of Human Services will accept requests for assistance and will determine need. Requests for assistance will be kept private and will only be known by the Case Workers. Payments will be made directly to the Utility Company on behalf of any approved applicant. A maximum benefit of $100 per household is in place until additional funds become available. The initial funding of $5,000 comes from the Newtown Rotary Foundation. Up to an additional $5,000 is available for matching any contributions from the public.

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Ridgefield residents urged to be cautions of COVID track and trace scams

The State Department of Public Health has introduced a new COVID-19 tracking system and has hired "trackers" to follow up with persons who test positive. Ridgefield Health Director Ed Briggs and First Selectman Rudy Marconi are urging Ridgefield residents to cooperate with the trackers, but to be watchful for scammers. Trackers will never ask for banking, credit card or password information, nor will they tell you which of your recent contacts has tested positive due to HIPAA laws.

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Danbury Schools re-entry plan includes bus protocols

The Danbury Public School District draft re-entry plan calls for bus passengers to use alternating diagonal seating in the fall to increase distance between students. Passengers will be required to wear a face covering or mask. Students should load into the bus from the back row to the front.  Transportation to and from school by parents/guardians will be encouraged to help with social distance protocols.  The district will conduct a survey to find out which students will be driven by parents at the start of the school year. 

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State continues to monitor nursing homes, assisted living facilities for COVID

State officials continue to visit and monitor nursing homes and assisted living centers where most COVID-associated deaths and serious infections occurred. The Ridgefield Health Department is in regular contact with the management of those facilities as well.  Health Director Ed Briggs says Ridgefielders are experiencing a low, flat CV-19 infection and hospitalization rate. To date, 3,276 people in town have been tested and 219 have been positive.  Ridgefield has recorded 43 fatalities, 40 from assisted care/nursing facilities.  Ages of the active cases range from less than 1 years old to over 80 with most falling in the 19-50 year old range.

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UPDATED: Tractor trailer accident, fire on I-84 in Danbury

A tractor trailer caught fire on I-85 westbound in Danbury late this morning.  The vehicle was across all lanes of traffic between exits 5 and 4.  Both sides of the highway were closed down as firefighters work to extinguish the fully involved blaze. 

The driver reportedly escaped with what are believed to be relatively minor injuries.

Drivers pulled over and were out of their vehicles watching the emergency response, though police eventually directed them to back up and exit the roadway.  Drivers headed westbound were directed to exit the highway using the entrance ramp, which was closed to motorists looking to access I-84.  Some eastbound lanes were also closed.

According to dispatch reports, the tractor trailer was empty and not hauling a load at the time. 

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Two children rescued from woods in Easton

Emergency responders in Easton have rescued two missing children who were lost in the woods last night.  Easton Police, firefighters and EMS responded to Trout Brook Valley Aspetuck Land Trust around 6:30pm after getting a report that the kids hadn't been seen for over 4 hours.  The children were located by other hikers in the woods and said their cell phone ran out of power.  They were lead out and reunited with their mother. 

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Greater Danbury area towns have high Census response rates

Several Greater Danbury area towns are leading the way in Connecticut when it comes to self- responding to the U.S. Census.  In Bethel, 78.2 percent or residents have filled out the population count form.  Newtown is at a 73.4 percent participation rate while in Redding, 70.6 percent of homes have responded.  Danbury's Census response rate is 65.5 percent.

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Wilton COVID testing rate on par with neighboring communities

COVID-19 testing is readily available in Connecticut, even without a doctor’s order.  11-point-7-percent of Wilton residents have been tested.  First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice says this rate is similar to neighboring towns performing regular or periodic resident testing, such as Ridgefield at 12-point-2 percent of population.  Vanderslice notes that testing requires town resources, and with testing readily available, resources are better dedicated to other priorities.  She added that asymptomatic testing is only meaningful if performed on a regular basis, generally every 14 days

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Ridgefield health officials checking with businesses for CDC guideline compliance

Ridgefield Health Department personnel are observing operations at local licensed facilities where a health permit is necessary--restaurants, barber/beauty shops, and grocery stores.  Health Director Ed Briggs says most are doing a good job protecting employees and customers because they know their economic survival depends on their customers seeing the facilities following CDC and state guidance.  Ridgefield Emergency Manager Dick Aarons says the Office of Emergency Management is working daily with the state Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security to assure communication between the state and regional Recovery Steering Committees and several town agencies working on long-term recovery

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New Fairfield Historical Society hosts open house

The New Fairfield Historical Society is holding an open house at the historic, one-room, Little Red Schoolhouse on Sunday.  The event from 1 to 3pm is at the schoolhouse on Brush Hill Road at the corner of Marjorie Road.   One of seven built to educate the children of New Fairfield, the Little Red Schoolhouse offers a glimpse into the history of the town as well as how children were taught over 100 years ago. Volunteers will be on-site to answer any questions.  Considering the safety of attendees as well as the volunteers, masks will be required to enter the schoolhouse.

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Danbury schools create plan in case of COVID diagnosis of student, educator

According to the Danbury Public School District draft plan for re-entry, if a student, staff member, or visitor has been present in school has a confirmed diagnosis of COVID-19, several steps will be taken.  Schools will likely implement a short-term closure of 2 to 5 days or longer regardless of community spread if an infected person has been in a school building, based on CDC recommends.  This initial short-term dismissal allows time for the local health officials to gain a better understanding of the COVID-19 situation impacting the school. This allows the Superintendent, in consultation with the local health officials, to determine appropriate next steps, including whether an extended dismissal duration is needed to stop or slow further spread of COVID-19.

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Tractor trailer accident causes fire on I-84 in Danbury

A tractor trailer is on fire on I-85 westbound in Danbury.  The vehicle is across all lanes of traffic between exits 5 and 4.  The highway is closed down as firefighters work to extinguish the fully involved blaze.  Drivers pulled over and were out of their vehicles watching the emergency response, though police are directing them to back up and exit the roadway.

Drivers headed westbound are being directed to exit the highway using the entrance ramp, which is closed to motorists looking to access I-84.  There is heavy traffic headed eastbound due to lane closures and rubbernecking.  

According to dispatch reports, the tractor trailer was empty and not hauling a load at the time. 

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DOT proposes Route 39 expansion by Danbury High School

The state Department of Transportation will be holding an informational hearing at the end of the month about a proposed expansion of Route 39 in Danbury.  The intersection improvements to Clapboard Ridge Road will be made at Beckerle Street and East Gate Road, to address left-turns during peak hours. 

The public comment period is open through August 12th. 

The informational meeting is July 29th at 7pm via Microsoft Teams, and will include a live Question and Answer session.  The live event will be recorded and posted for viewing during the comment period.  A written Report of Meeting will be posted following the event that captures the Q&A session, including responses to the questions by the design team.

The DOT issued a certificate to the City in 2016, agreeing to make operational and safety improvements along Route 39 if the proposed expansion to Danbury High School was completed.  The crash histories for these intersections show a pattern of rear end collisions.

The proposed improvements include minor widening of Route 39 to allow for the addition of exclusive left-turn lanes on the southbound approaches. This work will require minor modifications to the existing drainage system. The widening also impacts multiple driveways which will require reconstruction. Route 39 will be resurfaced by milling 3” and paving 3” and the traffic signals at both intersections will be replaced or modified for the new intersection configurations.

This project also proposes tree clearing to address substandard sightlines. There are right-of-way impacts four properties, which will require easements: two sightline easements (including tree clearing), one slope easement, and an easement for traffic appurtenances.

The estimated construction cost for this project is approximately $ 4.1 million. This project is anticipated to be undertaken with 80 percent Federal Funds and 20 percent State funds.

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Danbury Fire Marshal reminds parents to 'Look Before You Lock'

With a heatwave expected this weekend, the Danbury Fire Marshal's Office is reminding drivers to Look Before You Lock.  They're concerned about children or dogs being left alone inside vehicles.  In 10 minutes a car’s temperature can rise over 20 degrees, and over 50 degrees in an hour, even on a mild day.  The Fire Marshal says cracking the windows offers little to no relief.  A child’s body can heat up 5 times faster than an adults.  Drivers are encouraged to place a cellphone, purse or wallet in the back seat as a reminder to check it before leaving.  If someone else is driving your child, the Fire Marshal suggests checking with them to make sure they arrived safely at their destination. 

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NY STate Police investigating rash of car thefts

The rash of thefts from cars and stolen motor vehicles isn't just a problem for Connecticut towns in the Greater Danbury area.  New York State Police are investigating cases in Putnam County and elsewhere in the lower Hudson Valley.  Since March 1st, over 400 stolen vehicle cases have been opened in Westchester, Putnam, Dutchess, and Rockland Counties.  Numerous arrests have been made by multiple agencies.  Many of the vehicles have been recovered, but Troopers say they often suffered severe damage from the perpetrators.  New York State Police Troopers are asking that residents lock unoccupied vehicles and remove all keys, key fobs and personal items from inside the car.  Keys or key fobs left inside the vehicle is the most common factor shared amongst these cases.  Trooper say many of the vehicles stolen have been from affluent neighborhoods. 

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Meeting held about Branchville TOD, Pedestrian Improvement Project

The Town of Ridgefield held a virtual public involvement meeting last night about the Branchville Transit Oriented Development and Pedestrian Improvement Project.  Preliminary designs were completed by the town.  The goal is to encourage alternative means of transportation through the Route 7 and Route 102 corridors.  The Branchville TOD study calls for creation of a continuous, accessible sidewalk down the west side of Route 7 from the bridge over the Norwalk River to the town line, and along the north side of Route 102 from Ethan Allen Highway to Florida Road.  The project also includes a pedestrian bridge over Cooper Pond Brook.  Based on preliminary estimates, the construction cost is about $2.3 million.  The project is planned for construction under the Transportation Alternatives component of the Federal Surface Transportation Program overseen by the state Department of Transportation.  The Federal Highway Administration will provide 80% of the construction cost, with the town providing 20%.

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Newtown Zoning Commission suspends permits for temporary signs

The Newtown Zoning Commission has suspended permits for temporary signs due to the pandemic.  This was done to allow retailers to inform customers on how to order take out, access to the business, change in hours and other pertinent information.  Maximum sign size is 16 square feet.  Temporary signs do not include banners.  Temporary structures are also being allowed for installation.  Tables can be set up in order to facilitate the pick up of food or the outdoor display and sale of non-perishable merchandise.  Temporary structures larger than 120 square feet and tents larger than 350 square feet still require a building permit.

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Brookfield firefighters, police hold dive team training

On Monday, Brookfield Volunteer Fire Department Candlewood Company and the Brookfield Police Department conducted training with their dive team on Marine 24 and Marine 25. This was the first time the Brookfield Dive team used the new Marine 25 vessel to do regular dive training.  Members used the police department's side scan sonar on Marine 24 and the built-in side scan sonar on Marine 25 to track divers in the water.  The goal of the training exercise was to make all first responders more proficient when it comes to working together on dive operations. Marine 25 was built so it can have these expanded search and rescue capabilities.  Fire company officials say the sonar, coupled with a hydraulically operated bow gate and other features make water rescues and recovery of victims faster and safer.

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Danbury asks state to approve hybrid school reopening

Although the State and Danbury Public School District goal is have a return to full in person learning this fall, Danbury petitioned to start with a modified scheduled due to space restrictions and safety concerns.  The draft plan calls for students split into two groups, with half in the classroom Mondays and Tuesdays, a deep clean on Wednesdays, and then the other half in classrooms on Thursdays and Fridays. 

When students are not in school buildings, they are working at home with materials provided from the teacher and school.  Special Education and bilingual students could have in person learning up to four days per week. 

Students with health concerns, illness, or a quarantine order will participate in a Remote Learning Parallel Track.  Superintendent Dr Sal Pascarella says this aids in a return to school at the appropriate point after illness, quarantine, or when families decide to re-enter.  If parents choice is remote learning, the District recommends that a child remain  in that model for the duration of the semester. 

Homeschooling has always been an option for families, but that means they are formally withdrawing from the Danbury Public Schools and the parent chooses all instructional materials and is solely responsible for student learning.

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Informational hearing planned about Route 39 intersection improvements

The state Department of Transportation will be holding an informational hearing at the end of the month about a proposed expansion of Route 39 in Danbury.  The intersection improvements to Clapboard Ridge Road will be made at Beckerle Street and East Gate Road, to address left-turns during peak hours.  The public comment period is open through August 12th.  The informational meeting is July 29th at 7pm via Microsoft Teams, and will include a live Question and Answer session.  https://portal.ct.gov/DOTDanbury34-351 The live event will be recorded and posted for viewing during the comment period.  A written Report of Meeting will be posted following the event that captures the Q&A session, including responses to the questions by the design team.

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Eversource continues tree trimming in Greater Danbury area

Tree trimming operations are underway along power lines in the Danbury area. First was the Emerald Ash Borer, then the drought of 2016-17, along with the Gypsy Moth infestation and now – more dry conditions for trees in New England.  Eversource officials say as these devastating issues continue to plague Connecticut’s landscape, the utility is working with community leaders to address the dead, hazardous trees that threaten overhead electric lines.

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Weston Fire Department warns residents about email scam

Weston Volunteer Fire Department is alerting residents that a scammer is sending emails made to look like they are from the fire department.  The scam email requests financial help for the daughter of a firefighter.  Weston Volunteer Fire Company officials say they did not and would not send out a request like this. Anyone receiving an email like this is being told it's a fake and not to click on the link to donate.

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Newtown High School graduate waives hearing, pleads not guilty to murder

TOLLAND Conn. (AP) — A 23-year-old University of Connecticut student who is accused of killing two men and committing numerous other crimes while leading authorities on a six-day search, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to murder and other charges.

Peter Manfredonia, who is being held in lieu of a $7 million bond, waived his right to a probable cause hearing on the murder charge during a hearing in Superior Court. He is due back before a judge on October 2. He elected to have a jury trial.

“It’s really a procedural step at this point,” Michael Dolan, his attorney, said outside the courthouse.

Manfredonia also is charged with criminal attempt to commit murder, assault, home invasion, kidnapping with a firearm, robbery, larceny, stealing a firearm and assault on an elderly person. Additional charges are expected.

The murder charge stems from the death of Ted DeMers, of Willington, who police said was killed with a Samauri sword outside his home on May 22.

It’s not clear why Manfredonia was in DeMers’ neighborhood. But a female acquaintance of Manfredonia’s who lives near DeMers’ home told police she stopped seeing him after learning on March 18 that he had hacked into her social media accounts, police said. She had considered getting a restraining order against Manfredonia, police said.

According to state police, the University of Connecticut senior then went to another man’s home, held him hostage for about 24 hours, stole his guns and truck and drove about 70 miles (110 kilometers) southwest to Derby.

On May 24, police found Manfredonia’s high school friend, Nicholas Eisele, 23, shot to death in his Derby home. Authorities believe Manfredonia killed him and then forced Eisele’s girlfriend into her car and fled the state.

Manfredonia was captured on May 27 in Maryland.

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Danbury School District releases draft re-entry plan

A draft document has been released by the Danbury Public School District.  There will be a zoom meeting tonight about the school re-entry plan.  Information about how to join the Zoom meeting at 5pm can be found on the district's Facebook page. 

The draft document includes protocol checklists for reopening in several areas including: Health and Wellness, Facilities and Operations, Instruction, Social/Emotional Growth, Transportation, Technology and Pandemic Response.  

Superintendent Dr Sal Pascarella says schools may look a little different in the fall and procedures to ensure the health and safety of all in the building may feel strange, but he hopes that returning to learning in the classroom will bring students comfort.  Whether  in school, a hybrid learning environment or through remote learning, Pascarella wants educators, parents and others to work together to ensure that all students are continuing to learn and develop to their highest potential.

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1hHF_Y5fpbWpjU5vQ-tTJj70ZCM-Vx1aHrDTjWzQG0t8/edit

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Richter Park Authority repays Danbury for cash advance

The Richter Park Authority has repaid the City of Danbury for a $150,000 cash advance approved by the City Council in February. The line of credit was 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.  But Mayor Mark Boughton says the Richter Park Authority is now $400,000 into the positive because of a good spring, driven by nice weather and the COVID-19 pandemic.  He says there were a lot of people with nothing else to do for months but play golf. 

Richter is averaging 180 to 220 golfers per day. 

Their strategic plan calls for putting surplus funds aside for winter and to pay back another loan.  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 last April, is bringing in residual benefits for Richter Park operations. 

The current loan balance is $1.7 million. 

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Mailbox thefts, vandalism investigated in Newtown

A rash of mailbox thefts and vandalism is being investigated in Newtown.  Police received several reports of mailboxes being removed from their posts in the overnight hours of Monday into Tuesday.  Police say most of the mailboxes were recovered, but some have yet to be located.  The damage and vandalism happened in the area of Taunton Hill and Taunton Ridge roads.  Newtown Police are asking that anyone who normally walks or jogs in that area to keep an eye out for the missing mailboxes, and turn over any that are located to police so they can be returned to the owners.  Anyone with information about the incidents is asked to contact the Newtown Police Department at 203-270-4255.

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Remington ordered to provide certain information to 10 Sandy Hook families

A judge has ruled that Remington must “act in good faith” to provide certain information to 10 Sandy Hook families as part of their wrongful death lawsuit against the gunmaker.  Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis ruled Tuesday that the information is fair game for the families to discover whether the defendants met their obligations.  Remington objected to naming every person the company has contacted for “any statements, documents, and/or communication concerning the shooting on 12-14, including statements, documents, and/or communications concerning responses to the shooting and/or the shooter”.  The lawsuit rests on whether Remington used reckless marketing, in violation of Connecticut’s Unfair Trade Practices Act.  Bellis previously allowed the families’ attorneys to question the gunmaker’s executives under oath about its internal organization and procedures — which Remington considered invasive and improper.  70 separate requests for documents to date has resulted in production of tens of thousands of documents, consisting of more than 100,000 pages.

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West Redding firefighters train with new air packs

West Redding Volunteer Fire Department has some new equipment.  On Monday night, members drilled on the new 3M Scott Fire & Safety X3 Pro SCBA Self Contained Breathing Apparatus, to become familiar with the new packs.  The firefighters were assisted with their training via Zoom by Shipman's Fire Equipment Company.   The West Redding firefighters used the modular training prop to simulate any sized room, or hallway.  The facility has doorways and windows which allow firefighters to practice tactics like Vent Enter Isolate Search.  They practiced search methods while breathing on the new air packs, and had the building filled with artificial smoke to provide blackout conditions for firefighters.

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Danbury Police identify homicide victim

Danbury Police have identified the Waterbury man killed on Sunday night.  

Police say 39-year old Raymond Irvin Simmons had several ties to Danbury.  He sustained multiple gunshot wounds.  Simmons was transported to Danbury Hospital where he was pronounced deceased.

A preliminary investigation indicates that he was attending a candlelight celebration of life vigil for a deceased friend at Beaver Street near Elm Street shortly after 10:30pm when he was shot and killed.  Police say the incident is not believed to have been indiscriminate, and the general public is not currently at risk by the assailant.

The investigation remains ongoing.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Det. Kupchok at 203-797-2168 or the anonymous tips line at 203-790-8477.

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Danbury firefighters rescue cat from tree

Danbury firefighters responded to a different type of call yesterday.  During the storm on Saturday, a cat went up a tree in the city.  The family put food at the base of the tree, but after a few days and the cat hadn't come down, they called 911.  Truck 1 arrived and was able to reach the cat, and bring her down to the two young girls.  Danbury Fire officials say the cat is doing fine.

(Photo: DFD)

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CT Food Bank Truck returns to Danbury tomorrow

The Connecticut Food Bank Truck will be at Rogers Park Middle School in Danbury tomorrow morning.  There will be no contact food distribution for people in need starting at 10am.  Volunteers will put food directly into recipient's trunks.  Volunteers are needed to help from 9am to 11am. Email Anne Mead at meadan@danbury.k12.ct.us to volunteer.

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Danbury Officers, Boy Scouts help single mother move out of bad living situation

Danbury Police Officers responded to a landlord/tenant dispute type complaint on June 30.  They learned that the single mother of four was moving to a new address in the city, but struggling to find a way to move her belongings due to monetary issues.  The responding officers, taking it upon themselves, stepped up to help.  About a week ago, Officers Hildebrand, Elste, Russotti, Lavallee and Det. Kupchok; along with some of their family members and members of the Danbury Boy Scouts; volunteered their time and successfully moved the woman and her children out of what police say was a bad living situation and into a new home.

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More services resume at Bethel Library

Bethel Public Library is offering more in-person services.  Appointments can now be made by library card holders for computer use, printing, copying, scanning and use of reference materials.  Appointments will be 45 minutes long.  Masks are required. Work stations are cleaned between appointments.  The book drop is open for returns on material, which can be picked up curbside.

 

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Wilton Selectmen consider reopening tax deferral application period

The Wilton Board of Selectmen will consider the reopening of the application period for the COVID-19 Tax Deferral Program for taxes due on August 3rd.  The original application deadline was June 15th, but about half a dozen residents called the town saying they wanted to file, but didn’t know about the deadline. If approved at the special Board of Selectmen meeting tonight, the application period would start tomorrow and be open until July 31st.  Tonight's meeting is at 8pm.

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Nuvance Health suspending collections of plasma

Another sign of how well Connecticut has done in controlling the spread of COVID-19, Nuvance Health is suspending collections of plasma, which has been used to fight infection.  The health system, which includes Danbury, New Milford, Norwalk and Sharon hospitals, says the Plasma Donation Centers have more than 600 units of plasma stored for future use. 

302 patients were treated with convalescent plasma across the Nuvance Health system.  

Nuvance tapped the New York Blood Center and the American Red Cross to get plasma donations at the start of the pandemic, but opened its own collection sites in April. 

More than 2,100 people have been registered in the Nuvance database as potential donors.  The registry will remain open if cases start to rise.  Nuvance says one or more of the donation centers could reopen for research purposes. 

Plasma contains antibodies that medical experts say can potentially help critically ill patients fighting COVID-19.

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Dorothy Day cease and desist case moves back to Danbury court

The case of the City of Danbury versus the Dorothy Day Hospitality House has been transferred back from Hartford Judicial District to Danbury Superior Court.  The state Judicial District also ordered the sides to submit a new timeline for all remaining dates in the cease and desist order case.  Zoning Enforcement Officer Sean Hearty and the Roy Estate, Dorothy Day and the Zoning Board of Appeals agreed to the defendants' briefs being rescheduled for August 14th, the reply brief on September 15th and the hearing date October 15th.  Dorothy Day had a permit back in 1983 for temporary use on an annual basis.  It was renewed for one year, and it was never renewed again.  A virtual status conference has been scheduled for July 23rd.

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Wilton cites young people, travel for rise in COVID-19 cases

Over the last few days, Wilton has had 4 new cases of COVID-19 reported.  First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice says statewide there's a larger share of younger residents who are testing positive.  She says travel to more than one of the states impacted the quarantine travel advisory is also being cited.  During the height of the pandemic, Wilton's "case per person" rate lagged neighboring communities.  Now, Wilton leads non-urban neighbors with a rate of 1 case for every 81 residents.  In Ridgefield, it's 1 case for every 109 residents and in Weston it's 1 for every 152 residents.

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All Ridgefield residents to vote in one polling location for primaries

Despite all registered eligible voters in Connecticut receiving an absentee ballot application for the upcoming primaries, the polls will be open for in-person voting on August 11th,  All three Ridgefield districts will vote at East Ridge Middle School from 6 am until 8 pm.  CDC guidelines will be followed for poll workers as well as voters. Face coverings will be required and surface sanitizing will occur regularly throughout the day.  Residents who choose to vote by absentee ballot must complete the application and mail it to the Town Clerk. Those who submitted applications will receive a ballot in the mail beginning next week.   A complete absentee ballot must be billed out using black ink so it can be read by the scantron machine.  The completed ballot should then be placed in an enclosed envelop, sealed and sign.  That signed parcel is placed in an outer envelope and mailed to the Town Clerk or deposited in the official ballot receptacle located at the Bailey Avenue entrance of Ridgefield Town Hall. All ballots must be received by 8 pm on August 11th.

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New Milford School officials to release draft reopening plan

New Milford school officials are expected to release a draft plan on Friday about reopening school buildings this fall.  The Envisioning the 2020-21 School Year Advisory Team, a group of over 70 school and community stakeholders, has been working with administrators to develop a plan for a “full, safe, and appropriate” reopening.  New Milford School Superintendent Kerry Parker says parents and community members should give regular feedback and suggestions concerning the plans to reopen and the phase-in of all aspects of school life.  Zoom virtual meetings will be scheduled in the next few weeks to discuss the draft of the Plan, answer questions, and gather feedback.  The state Education Department's guidelines says districts should plan to have all students, in all schools, return to school houses for full-time instruction at the beginning of the 2020-21 school year, so long as public health data continues to support this model. The model also supports mitigation strategies and specific monitoring, containment, and class cancellation plans.

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Southbury Police investigating shoplifting incident

Someone shoplifted from Old Navy in Southubry.  Police are investigating a larceny that happened at the 100 Main Street North location yesterday around 6:30pm.  The suspect is a black female, who was  wearing a pink dress, multicolored sandals and a multicolored head scarf.  The woman left the store with a blue tote bag of unpaid items.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Southbury Police Officer Pierce at (203) 264-5912.

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Newtown Congregational Church to host blood drive

Newtown Congregational Church is hosting a blood drive at the end of the month.  More than 30,000 planned blood drives have been canceled since the lockdowns began in mid-March, which the American Red Cross says has resulted in critical blood shortages.  Donations typically decline during the summer months.  The Red Cross says there's a 30% increase in demand from hospitals as elective surgeries and procedures resume.  Blood donations are needed from eligible healthy individuals of all blood types.  All blood drives comply with COVID-19 precautions. Each donor must wear their own mask or get one from the Red Cross.  Appointments can be made on the Red Cross website.  The blood drive at Newtown Congregational Church is July 30th from 10am to 3pm.

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Aquarion Water facility in New Fairfield to be upgraded, expanded

The New Fairfield Zoning Commission has approved a special permit application for work at Aquarion Water Company’s Heron View Road pump station.  The facility will be expanded and upgraded according to the application, through a well station addition.  Three wells and a pump station treat and distribute water from the site near The Woods at Dunham Pond condominium complex.  Underground piping will be added in order to increase system reliability.  An  underground storage tank will be removed, though that needs a separate approval. 

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Health Department: COVID-19 positive person visited Brewster pub

The Putnam County Sheriff's Office is working with the Putnam Health Department to alert people who visited a local pub that they may have been exposed to COVID-19.  Anyone who worked at or visited Tom & Jerry’s Bar & Grill in Brewster on July 6th from 1:30pm to 3pm may have been exposed.  A member of the public who has tested positive visited during that time.  People are being encouraged to watch for symptoms of COVID-19 which include fever, chills, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, and  nausea or vomiting.  Testing is available at many sites throughout Putnam County.

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Gas main being installed in Danbury

Eversource Gas will be installing a new gas main in Danbury and there could be traffic delays.  The work is being done on Wooster Heights Road from the intersection at Lee Farms Road to the Intersection of Terre Haute Road. The City has required numerous traffic delay warning signs and traffic control signs to be installed.  Construction has been limited to off-peak hours of 8:30am to 4pm.  There will be one-way alternating traffic during the road work.  Construction started yesterday and is expected to take 3 to 4 weeks to complete.  In order to avoid delays, motorists are advised to use alternative routes.

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Putnam County internship program continuing amid pandemic

Despite the pandemic keeping many government employees working remotely, a Putnam County internship program is continuing.  The Putnam Invests In Leaders of Tomorrow, or PILOT, is open to high school, college and graduate students.  County Executive MaryEllen Odell says the idea is to give young residents hands-on professional experience in county government.  This year's summer session was delayed, but kicked off with a socially distanced orientation.  This year, the PILOT applicants are more than just summer interns, they are also certified contact tracers.  Due to a manageable caseload, interns were able to return to their previously scheduled summer work plans, including in the Health Department.  Though they are now creating COVID-19 information pamphlets as well as assembling test kits.

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Brookfield expects to open Town Hall to walk-ins in early August

Brookfield officials expected to open Town Hall to walk-ins in early August, though the specific date has yet to be determined.  First Selectman Steve Dunn says it's taking a lot of work to make the building safe for staff and residents.  They are still in the process of reconfiguring offices and installing sneeze shields in places that the public visits.  Until town hall is open for walk ins, Brookfield residents can make an appointment with the department they need in order to conduct business.  But Dunn encouraged people to use online services, if possible.  Anyone going to Town Hall must wear a mask at all times, have temperature checked and answer CDC health questions.

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Connecticut Institute for Communities to offer free COVID testing in religious institutions

The Connecticut Institute for Communities Greater Danbury Community Health Center is working with local houses of worship to offer free COVID-19 testing for congregants on their sites of worship.

In order to best meet the needs of the community during this pandemic, the health center believes offering testing in places where people feel most comfortable is a valuable service.  Congregations interested in this free service should contact Katie Curran at CurranKa@ct-institute.org or 203-743-9760 x121. 

The Community Health Center  has also put together a mobile testing team to provide testing in the communities difficult to reach. This mobile testing site is fully equipped to provide testing services and can communicate results directly to patients within 2 to 4 business days. This service is recommended for organizations that intend to provide testing services to its clients or members. 

Facilities interested in scheduling a testing event should contact Anika McPherson at McPherA@chc1.com.

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Conn. lawmakers to consider police reforms in upcoming session

 

 

 

The draft bill includes roughly 40 sections. Among the highlights:

— Create an independent office of inspector general to investigate use of force cases and prosecute when necessary.

— Require all officers to periodically have mental health screenings.

— Change state’s “use of force” policy, moving from a subjective standard to a more objective standard for when force is appropriate.

— Require an officer to intervene if they witness excessive use of force by police and provide that officer with whistleblower protections.

— Increase training requirements for police to include things like implicit bias and how to manage crowds of people.

— Make police disciplinary records subject to the Freedom of Information Act.

— Replace the entire membership of Police Officer Standards and Training Council by the end of 2020 with new people who have different skill sets and represent a greater diversity of communities. The reconstituted council would have expanded ability to pull the state certification of officers.

— Require body and dashboard cameras for all officers engaging with the public.

— Increase the penalties for making a false police report based on a race, gender, national origin or sexual identity.

— Place limits on the type of military-grade equipment municipalities can obtain through the federal government.

— Ban quotas for pedestrian stops by police.

— Request police departments to review whether they can use social workers in lieu of sending officers to certain calls and impose stronger reporting requirements for departments when force is used.

— Allow more municipalities to appoint citizen police review boards.

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UPDATED: Man fatally shot in Danbury

There was a homicide in Danbury last night.  Police confirm the shooting happened on Beaver Street near Elm Street shortly after 10:30pm.  Officers found a 39-year-old Waterbury man suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.  He was transported to Danbury Hospital where he was pronounced deceased. 

The shooting reportedly happened during an outdoor memorial being held for a Danbury native who recently died.

The investigation is ongoing.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Travis Kupchok at 203-797-2168 or the Anonymous TIPS Line at 203-790-8477. All calls will remain confidential. 

The identity of the victim is known, but is not being released until the next of kin can be notified.

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Homeless man has been charged for death of man found near railroad tracks

A homeless man has been charged with manslaughter for the death of a man whose body was found by the railroad tracks in Danbury last month.  Police also charged 46-year old Carlos Enrique Guzman-Lopez with assault.  An investigation was launched June 24th after a man was found lying face down in heavy brush.  He was later identified as 60-year-old Ricardo Uruchima.  Police say he suffered multiple blunt force trauma strikes to his head and upper body.  The man's death was ruled a homicide. Guzman-Lopez was charged Friday after several days of searching.  Police say the investigation remains active and ongoing.

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Easton man arrested for allegedly sexually abusing two children

An Easton man has been arrested for allegedly sexually abusing two children.  Easton Police received a call earlier this month from Yale-New Haven Hospital about two patients seen for signs of sexual abuse and trauma.  The victims were interviewed late last week and a warrant for 40-year old Robert McGuire was issued.  Easton Police arrested him at his home on Friday and say evidence was recovered along with 12 firearms and a large amount of ammunition.  The evidence is currently being examined by the Technical Investigation Unit.  McGuire was held on a court set half a million dollars bond for an appearance today.  He was charged with two counts of sexual assault and illegal sexual contact along with one count of risk of injury to a minor.  Investigators from Darien, Weston, Westport, and Wilton assisted in the investigation.

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Brookfield Tax Collector reminds residents of deadline for payment

Brookfield officials are reminding residents that taxes must be paid by August 3rd in order to avoid a penalty.  Residents can mail in their tax payments, drop them off in the box in front of Brookfield Town Hall or go online to pay.  There is an additional charge imposed by the card processor to pay online.  Anyone requesting a mailed receipt should include a self-addressed stamped envelope and Brookfield town employees will mail that receipt.  Residents can also check online to confirm town hall has received and recorded the tax payment.

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Food drives health in New Milford, Bridgewater over the weekend

There was a steady stream of donors at a drive up food collection in New Milford over the weekend.  The food collection to benefit New Milford Food Bank & Camella's Cupboard took place on the green across from town hall on Saturday afternoon.  The event was sponsored by United Way of Western Connecticut and the Rotary Club of New Milford. Non-perishable food, grocery store gift cards and monetary donations were accepted.

Bridgewater officials are calling a weekend food pantry food drive a success.  Some 26 cars passed through to drop off supplies and tax payments. The Bridgewater Tax Collector's office will continue to accept food pantry donations and tax payments at Town Hall.

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Bethel First Selectman urges vigilance in mask wearing

Even though Connecticut's economy is now 97% open, Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says the state is keeping coronavirus under control.  He attributed this to people being diligent about wearing masks in public.  Knickerbocker says wearing a mask reduces the risk of contracting coronavirus by 70%.  He added that in speaking with residents, that when people walk into a store and see other customers without masks, they often turn around and leave. Knickerbocker says that hurts the store owner’s chances of getting through this crisis.  He urged residents and visitors to wear a mask when out.

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Weekend shooting in Danbury leaves Waterbury man dead

There was a homicide in Danbury last night. 

Police confirm there was shooting on Beaver Street near Elm Street shortly after 10:30pm.  Officers found a 39-year-old Waterbury man suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.  He was transported to Danbury Hospital where he was pronounced deceased. 

The identity of the victim is known, but is not being released until the next of kin can be notified.

The investigation is ongoing, but police say the shooting happened during an outdoor memorial gathering for a Danbury native who died recently.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Travis Kupchok at 203-797-2168 or the Anonymous TIPS Line at 203-790-8477. All calls will remain confidential. 

 

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Judge dismisses cases against men convicted in 1985 murder

TORRINGTON, Conn. (AP) — Two men who spent decades in prison based in part on the erroneous testimony of world-famous forensic expert Henry Lee had all charges against them dismissed Friday by a Connecticut Superior Court judge.

The ruling by Superior Court Judge Dan Shaban came after the state Supreme Court last year vacated the felony murder convictions of Ralph “Ricky” Birch and Shawn Henning in the Dec. 1, 1985, slaying of 65-year-old Everett Carr, of New Milford.

Birch had served more than 30 years of a 55-year sentence for felony murder. Henning, who was 17 when the crime occurred, was granted probation in 2018 under new rules for teenage offenders.

“They say the wheels of justice turn slowly,” Birch told The Hartford Courant outside the courtroom. “That’s a little bit of an understatement. It feels good. It’s been a long time coming.”

Andrew O’Shea, Birch’s attorney, said that despite an extremely bloody crime scene, no DNA evidence was ever found linking the pair to Carr, who had been stabbed 27 times, had his throat cut and suffered seven blows to the head. Despite being identified as suspects shortly after the crime, no blood was found on their clothes or in their car.

During their trials, prosecutors presented evidence from Lee — who would later gain fame as a witness in the O.J. Simpson murder case — that it was possible for the assailants to avoid getting much blood on them.

Lee also testified that a towel, which later was suggested could have been touched by the killers while cleaning up, was found in a bathroom near the crime the scene with stains consistent with blood. But later tests showed it was not blood.

Litchfield State’s Attorney Dawn Gallo told Shaban that the state had decided against retrying the men because witnesses from 1985 have died or recanted testimony and retests of evidence failed to turn up anything tying Birch and Henning to the murder.

In dismissing the charges, Shaban ruled that there is no need for any further investigation of Birch and Carr, who wore T-shirts Friday reading “I didn’t do it,” and “I am innocent.” Friday’s brief hearings for the two men were streamed online.

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Hearthstone Castle Abatement Phase One underway in Danbury

Hearthstone Castle Abatement Phase One is getting underway in Danbury. 

Crews started to rebuild the road, giving better access to the castle.  Public Works Director Antonio Iadarola says the trails far enough away that he doesn't see a problem leaving them open.  But he acknowledged that curiosity will become a major factor so staff will monitor the situation.  He also told the contractor to be aware of that curiosity factor and if they see something that could become dangerous, they will extend the work area zone to protect the general public. 

The project designer and environmental consultant Eagle Environmental submitted the Alternative Work Practices Plan to the State Department of Health.  The plan was approved for Phase One abatement and demolition materials disposal. 

The Public Services Division cleared and dug a bit of the dirt at the site, giving access to the Phase 1 work zone.   Manafort Brothers, as the lowest qualified bidder, was awarded the contract.  A Pre-Construction Meeting was held on June 30th. 

Iadarola says this project is a gem of a project for his Department because they've been struggling to get the inside of the castle cleaned for two years.  He called it a permitting nightmare. 

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Bethel Schools to host parent meetings about reopening plans

The Bethel Public School District is hosting  Zoom Parent Meetings about the fall reopening plans being developed.  The state guidance requires districts to develop an in-person model which allows all students to come back to school and gives the option for distance learning if there is a medical reason a child cannot attend in-person schooling and/or if a parent is not comfortable sending their child to school. 

In order to help parents make their decision, a complete local document will be emailed for review before the Zoom meetings.  The meeting will feature a short presentation and include time for a question and answer session. 

After the virtual meetings, a survey will be sent to parents asking that they indicate if children will be participating in distance learning or in-person schooling.  Any parent that doesn't answer the survey, the Bethel School District will assume children will be coming back to school in an in-person model.  For planning purposes, the second question will ask whether or not the district bus transportation plan should be detailed, or if parents will be driving children.  Again, any parent not answering the survey, it will be assumed that kids will be on the bus. 

The district will record the informational sessions. 

The meetings for Rockwell and Berry age children is Monday July 20th from 5:30 to 7pm, and Johnson School students from 7 to 8:30pm.  The session for Middle School parents is Tuesday July 21st from 5:30 to 7pm and high schoolers from 7 to 8:30pm.

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Brookfield to reopen playgrounds tomorrow

State reporting of confirmed cases continues to move up and down.  Brookfield is now reporting 166 confirmed cases in town, with 8 deaths since COVID-19 was first detected in Connecticut. The latest recorded COVID-associated death was in mid-June. The last 4 positive cases of coronavirus in Brookfield were all people within the same household.  Meanwhile, playgrounds in Brookfield will open tomorrow.  But First Selectman Steve Dunn cautioned that the town does not have the capability to sanitize the playgrounds so everyone is being urged to use caution, especially those with a compromised system. The basketball courts will remain closed on advice of the town's Director of Public Health.

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One person injured in car vs tree accident

One person was injured in a car crash involving a tree on Saturday night.  Danbury firefighters responded to Taggan Point Road on a report of a serious crash.  Emergency responders found a heavily damaged Subaru Outback station wagon with a passenger trapped in the front right seat. Due to the location of the vehicle and the tree, firefighters had to remove the entire roof of the vehicle and then extricate the victim across the drivers side of the car. The patient was transported to Danbury Hospital with serious but non-life threatening injuries.

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Bridgewater to reconfigure Center Street

Bridgewater has started a road reconfiguration project.  Center Street construction work is now underway.  Center Street will be one-way north with some diagonal parking, and the work involves a sidewalk extension.  The capital project was initially approved by taxpayers in May 2016, with 25-thousand dollars in Town allocated funds if a match was secured.  Over the last three years the Bridgewater Selectman’s office locked in a matching grant, and an additional $84,000 grant.  Bridgewater officials anticipate the work to take several weeks to complete depending on weather conditions.

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Redding road projects get underway

The Redding Highway Department will be performing roadwork this week, weather permitting.  The work is being done on Newtown Turnpike from Cross Highway to Route 53, Umpawaug Road from Route 107 to Topstone Road and Pine Mountain Road as part of the town's ongoing road rehabilitation effort.  Umpawaug Road was paved last year, but a Micro Seal is now being applied.  The Highway Department says the process has been used on other roads in Redding with great success.  Newtown Turnpike was paved a few years ago and showing signs of wear.   Officials say the Micro Seal will help with the longevity of the road.  Pine Mountain Road will be getting a Chip Seal as part of the Cold In-place Recycling project that was done earlier this month.  Residents can expect delays and detours, and are urged to take alternate routes.  Center lines will be repainted sometime later this summer as part of the regular maintenance schedule.

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Danbury City Council considers reconstruction of scenic road

The Danbury City Council is looking into the idea of repaving a deteriorating road.  A portion of Long Ridge Road is designated as scenic, but residents say it's full of potholes and they've sustained damage to their cars.  Residents also expressed concern to the City Council that bicyclists, runners and walkers have fallen as a result of the bad road.  According to Danbury city ordinances, the Public Works Department needs City Council approval to improve scenic roads in excess of routine maintenance.  The entire road will be repaired with funding from the $18.5 million road improvement bond included in the $62 million borrowing package approved by the City Council in May.  The Planning Commission must also approve the reconstruction plan.

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Dial-A-Ride resumes in Wilton on Monday

Dial-A-Ride resumes in Wilton on Monday with the same days and hours as before, but with fewer daily trips and new COVID-19 protocols.  Service is limited to destinations within the boundaries of the Town of Wilton. No more than two riders per van will be in assigned seats.  Riders must wear face coverings unless a medical condition prevents such. Temperatures will be taken prior to entering the van.  Riders must complete a Wilton Health Department screening and sign an informed consent document prior to using the service.  Dial-a-Ride provides van transportation for Wilton Seniors and adults with disabilities. Reservations must be made no later than 4pm the day before the requested ride by calling (203) 834-6235.

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New technology installed at State Capitol for Special Session

The Connecticut General Assembly abruptly ended their regular session in March due to COVID-19.  State lawmakers are up for election in November, but Kent Representative Maria Horn says they are discussing possible special session in September to address the urgent needs of the pandemic.  It could also cover a small number of bills that had hearings, are completely drafted, have wide support and are straight forward.

New technology is being installed at the Connecticut state Capitol building.  Horn says members will be able to vote remotely, from their offices, rather than in the chamber during the upcoming special session. 

While a date hasn't been set, she expects the session to be held some time during the week of July 20th.  Horn says only those speaking will be in the chamber, and in one at a time.  These changes are all due to social distancing and gathering guidelines.

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New Milford Historical Society creates alternative fundraisers

The New Milford Historical Society closed in March due to the pandemic and has decided to remain closed throughout the summer months.  One of the cancelled events is the annual tag sale at the Village Fair Days, which was cancelled a few months ago.  This is a major fundraiser for the Historical Society and the group has been discussing alternate ways to raise money.  That includes an online "Tagless Tag Sale" in which they are seeking monetary donations to substitute what residents may have spent at the actual sale.  Ted Hine, a long-time member and supporter of the historical society, has offered to match the total donations with his government $1200 stimulus check. The second fundraising idea is to post items for sale on Facebook Market Place, with a picture, description and price--for items to be picked up at the museum.

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Danbury Police Department receives donation for health, wellness programs

A $15,000 donation is being made to the Danbury Police Department for health and wellness programs.  Chief Patrick Ridenhour expects the money to be used to support the physical and mental health of the officers.  The donation comes from The Ridgefield & Leir Charitable Foundation, in memory of Henry J. and Erna D. Leir.  Ridenhour told the City Council this week that the more donations they receive, the more programs can be implemented to start to deal with some of the issues and the stressors that officers face.  Danbury Police have received donations to upgrade the department's gym in the past.  They also recently held a family night program for the spouses and significant others of officers to help them understand the challenges their loved one may face.

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Danbury City Council to consider open space donation

A committee of the Danbury City Council will consider an open space donation to the City.  7.38 acres of natural habitat on Augusta Drive and 1.82 acres of wetlands abutting the Still River on Newtown Road are both in Commerce Park.  Melvyn J. Powers and Mary P. Land want to donate the property to the City for open space passive recreation.   The Seymour Powers Trust owns the parcels. The late Seymour Powers was a philanthropist who created Commerce Park in the early 1960s.  Seymour Powers worked with former Danbury Environmental Director Jack Kozuchowski for over 7 years to create the Still River Greenway, which included the clean up of the Still River to make it clean enough to be used by the public for fishing.

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State Police caution residents to rest area scammers

Connecticut State Police Troopers have been investigating a number of similar incidents at various rest areas where patrons are approached by someone claiming to have either lost their wallets or were victims of a robbery. Often times the scammers will ask for financial assistance, claiming that they are stranded with their family and trying to make it home.  They are banking on the fact that people will say no and, once denied money, they will offer to sell what appears to be a gold piece of jewelry they are wearing for as much as they can take.  State Police are asking anyone who is approached by someone attempting to solicit money at the rest areas to contact 911 immediately.

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Danbury Fire Marshal's Office offering reminders about water safety

With the weather getting warmer many people are heading for water, sprinklers and pools to cool off.  The Danbury Fire Marshal’s Office is offering a reminder about water safety.  Drowning is one of the leading causes of death for young children, and nearly 3-quarters happen in residential locations.  Children should not be left unattended near a swimming pool or other water sources. Floatation devices should be used, and there should always be a swimming buddy.  Parents and guardians should have a phone handy to call 911 if needed.

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Trails projects advance in Greater Danbury area

The Western Connecticut Council of Governments, the regional planning agency for this area, has completed a trails report for the New Milford River Trail. The report outlines potential trail connectivity options.  Newtown has made agreements with the National Park Service to continue their partnership to improve Al's trail in Newtown.  WestCOG says they're working to make it a Federally recognized trail.

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Danbury cafe owners arrested for violating Governor's Executive Orders

Several Danbury restaurants and bars had repeated disregard of COVID-19 restrictions over the 4th of July holiday weekend, and the owners were arrested.  While Danbury Police are not actively seeking out violations of the Governor’s COVID-19 related restrictions, the department does have a goal of maintaining public safety and the peace. 

After receiving specific citizen complaints or discovering blatant violations while responding to calls for service, officers were prompted to take enforcement action. Formal warnings were issued, and in these cases escalated to an arrest. 

On Saturday, five café owners were arrested and two others were issued formal warnings for violations of the Governor’s Executive Orders. Those who were arrested received at least one formal warning on a prior date and time. 

One prior warning was given to both La Canchita on Delay Street and Red House on Keeler Street for multiple violations and three people were arrested.  The owner of La Costenita on 2 Ives Street received prior warning and had multiple violations so the owner was arrested.  Two prior warnings were given to Fajitas and Margaritas on Main Street on June 20th and 28th, and this past weekend had multiple violations leading to the owner's arrest.  El Bocano on Railroad Place was given a warning for violations.  La Kabanita on White Street was given a warning for violations in regard to the executive order.  A liquor referral was made. 

On Sunday, one café owner was arrested for a second time.  More violations were found at La Costenita. 

Acting Health Director Kara Prunty says the Department staff is going around and teaching owners what they should be doing in order to follow safety guidelines.  Staff then follows up with periodic inspections to make sure they're doing what they should be doing. 

Mayor Mark Boughton says the owners refused to comply with prior warnings, despite education efforts.  In one case, Boughton says three warnings were issued before an arrest was made because the owner simply refused to comply with the guidance.

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62-year old man arrested for stabbing person during fight at Newtown condo complex

A report of a large fight in-progress at a Newtown condo complex has led to assault and breach of peace charges against a 62-year old man.  Newtown Police responded to South Main Street yesterday evening and determined that Charles Tyler of Stratford was trying to stab a family member with a knife.  Another family member tried to intervene and was stabbed in the hand in the process. That individual was transported to the hospital for treatment.  No one else sustained injuries.  Tyler was also charged with threatening.  He was held on 50-thousand dollars bond and will be arraigned in Danbury Superior Court this morning.

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New Fairfield students will spend some time in the classroom this fall

New Fairfield students will spend some time in the classroom this fall.  Superintendent Pat Cosentino said this week that the district has been working on a reopening plan, with the first day set for September 2nd.  The plan must be submitted to the state for review by July 24th.  District officials are considering reopening from operations, wellness, and teaching and learning standpoints.  There will be social distancing and mask wearing for students and staff.  The plan in New Fairfield calls for all students to return to the classroom, but giving parents the option to continue with distance learning.  Another plan calls for staggered schedules to reduce the number of students in the building at one time.  Half of the student body would have in person classes on Monday and Tuesday, Wednesday would be reserved for a deep cleaning and the other half of students in classrooms on Thursdays and Fridays.  Plans are also being developed for all distance learning throughout the year for all students.

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Voices for Change event planned Sunday in Danbury

Another event is being held in Danbury in response to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.  A group called Community for Change is hosting the “Voices for Change” event Sunday afternoon.  It's aimed at highlighting Black voices in the community and push for progress.  People will gather Sunday at the Danbury Green at 12:30pm.  The group collected submissions from speakers who want to share their stories, poems or songs, so people could tell their story on racism and police brutality through their expressive style. Attendees are asked to wear a mask and bring a blanket or lawn chair. A booth will be set up for people to register to vote or fill out census forms.

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New York Forward Business Reopening Lookup Wizard created

With the rapidly changing nature of COVID-19, state leaders are starting to take into account what is happening in other parts of the country when it comes to reopening decisions locally.  That has led to some confusion on what industries are back up and running.  Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell says the state has created a New York Forward Business Reopening Lookup Wizard. By entering their region and business type, people should be able to determine eligibility to reopen, including any special restrictions that may apply and to submit an affirmation form for having reviewed and understood all guidelines.  Business owners will also be directed to complete a safety plan to outline how workplaces will prevent the spread of COVID-19, either by direct link from the online wizard or, where industry-specific guidelines apply, a link sent after the affirmation form is submitted.

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10 homes impacted by two incidents in Wilton

Two groups of suspects hit Wilton cars Tuesday impacting 10 homes.  Wilton Police say during the early morning hours, one incident in the south end of Town led to reports of thefts from cars and stolen vehicles, while a second incident in the north end of Town impacted another 3 homes.  So far this year Wilton Police have investigated 15 theft from vehicle incidents compared to 8 at this time last year.  There have been 5 vehicles stolen from Wilton year to date.

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Boughton joins brain surgeon for webcast about battle with brain tumor

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton will join his brain surgeon today for a webcast about his battle with a brain tumor.  Dr. Robert Friedlander, chair of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Neurological Surgery Department has been hosting weekly live webcasts.  Boughton had a lemon-sized benign tumor removed in August 2017.  Prior to the surgery, Boughton had been experiencing morning headaches and bouts of dizziness caused by pressure build up in the brain.The webcast is at 1pm.  https://bit.ly/2ZRdzqG

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Danbury Police seek to ID person for questioning in hotel burglary

Danbury Police are looking to identify a person who may have information about a robbery that took place at the Holiday Inn on Newtown Road.  Danbury Police have released a photo of a white man who may know about the incident that happened Tuesday around 10pm. Anyone with information pertaining to the robbery or the identity of the man is asked to call Detective Perun at (203) 797-2167 or Detective Collins at (203)797-4667.

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Ben's Lighthouse hosting no-touch drive through food drive

Ben's Lighthouse is hosting a no-touch drive through food drive this weekend.  All donations will benefit the FAITH Food Pantry in Newtown.  The food drive is Saturday from 9am to 1pm at the Reed Intermediate School bus loop behind the school.  Ben's Lighthouse is a non-profit organization started in memory of 6-year old Ben Wheeler, one of the children killed at Sandy Hook School.

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Brookfield sets up committee to identify community needs

Brookfield First Selectman Steve Dunn has formed a committee to identify coronavirus service gaps for residents and businesses.  The group is chaired by Mel Butow, who ran against Dunn last year.  The committee will look into the needs of schools, local government and non-profits as well.  They will then make recommendations to the Board of Selectmen on how to address those needs through existing resources or advocate for other solutions.  Connecticut has asked every municipality to form these committees.  Brookfield residents interested in serving should contact the First Selectman's office.

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COVID-19 infecting younger Ridgefielders

COVID-19 is infecting younger Ridgefielders according to Health Director Ed Briggs.  He says the last 10 positive tests were reported for patients ranging in age from less than one-year to 86 with the majority in their 20s, 30s and 40s.  Briggs says this suggests younger people may be getting a little careless with precautions such as social distancing and mask wearing.  A person is considered "infectious” from two days before the time symptoms appear and for a period of ten days.  Anyone who has had unprotected contact with that patient during the ten-day infectious period must begin a self-quarantine that lasts for 14 days until after the last contact with the infected person.

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Stolen vehicles, thefts from cars on the rise again

For more than two years, many communities in the Greater Danbury area and across the state have experienced sustained activity of thefts from vehicles and stolen cars.  A successful Lock It or Lose It campaign by the Wilton Police Department in late 2018 resulted in a 55-percent reduction in reported thefts from vehicles during 2019 and a 59-percent reduction in reported vehicles stolen last year.  

But some of that vigilance has been lost. This year there have been 5 reported stolen vehicles compared to 0 at the same time last year.  There have been 15 reported theft from vehicle incidents compared to 8 at the same time last year. 

Wilton Police are reminding residents to lock unoccupied vehicles because those left unsecured are an invitation to thieves to keep coming back.

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Putnam County enters Phase 4 of NY's reopening plan

Museums, exhibitions, historical sites and low-risk entertainment venues are now allowed to reopen in Putnam County as the Mid-Hudson region enters Phase 4 of the state’s reopening plan.  Social gatherings of up to 50 people will also be allowed as will low-risk youth sports including baseball, softball, gymnastics, field hockey, cross country and track, with no more than two spectators.

Governor Andrew Cuomo did not permit gyms, indoor fitness centers, movie theaters and malls to reopen as part of Phase 4.  They must remain closed through August 5th. 

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell says since the first phase of the reopening started at the end of May, jobs have come back, restaurants opened and is pleased that low-risk entertainment is now returning.

In Phase 4, colleges and other institutions of higher education can reopen, as can zoos, botanical gardens, nature parks, historic sites and cultural sites. Media production companies, including film, television, music and website producers, can also get back to business.

In addition to Putnam, the Mid-Hudson region includes Westchester, Rockland, Dutchess, Orange, Sullivan and Ulster counties.

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Brookfield Republican Town Committee endorses candidates

The Brookfield Republican Town Committee has officially endorsed candidates at their town committee meeting.  The group is backing New Fairfield resident David Sullivan for the 5th Congressional District, to take on incumbent freshman Jahana Hayes.  The Brookfield RTC has also endorsed 3 incumbents for reelection in November; 30th District State Senator Craig Miner, 107th House District Representative Stephen Harding and Brookfield Republican Registrar of Voters Ryan Murphy.  At a Special Meeting in May, 33 Republicans were nominated as Justices of the Peace in Brookfield. Their term will last from January 2021 until January 2025. A full list of Justices of the Peace can be obtained from the Brookfield Town Clerk.

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WCSU President reacts to ICE directive on international students and distance learning

The President of Western Connecticut State University has issued a statement in response to ICE saying that international students must participate in in-person classes in order to remain in the United States.  Dr. John Clark says he and the Connecticut State Colleges and University System will stand in defense of students studying in Danbury from overseas.  Clark says all students deserve the opportunity for an education which leads them to their American dream. He called the latest federal directive mean-spirited and against the ethos of what it means to be a true American.

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Falls Village Recreation Facilities to close due to overcrowding

Another outdoor recreation area is closing for the foreseeable future due to concerns about overcrowding and public safety.  FirstLight Power Services has filed a notice with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission that they are temporarily closing access to the Falls Village Recreation Facilities, including picnic areas, parking areas, and hiking trails. 

The canoe self-portage will remain open.

This is based on requests from the town of Salisbury, and Canaan following an incident over the weekend where a family got stuck on an outcropping and had to be rescued by emergency responders.   On Sunday, a ten-year-old boy was swimming downstream of Great Falls and stranded himself on some rocks in the middle of the river. He did not feel that he could swim back to shore. The Falls Village and Lakeville Fire Departments responded and brought the boy to shore. There were no injuries reported.

The temporary closures are consistent with recommendations issued by the Connecticut Department of Health to minimize the potential exposure of FirstLight’s workforce, contractors and the general public to COVID-19.  The facilities will reopen as community health conditions improve. 

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CSCU system to evaluate ICE order on international students and distance learning

ICE says international students must participate in in-person classes in order to remain in the United States.  Connecticut State College and University System President Mark Ojakian says if Western, Central, Southern or Central moves to online-only education but chooses to leave residence halls open, international students would be evicted from student housing, and forced to finish the semester from their home country, where they may or may not have the infrastructure and resources to complete their coursework.  Ojakian says international students, in many cases, go on to live, work, and raise a family in Connecticut.  He says the federal administration’s decision to specifically target them is antithetical to the mission and offensive to him personally.  Ojakian says the CSCU system will evaluate all legal options and take whatever steps possible to defend international students.

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Southbury delays referendum on purchasing Edgewood Bath and Tennis Club

The Southbury Board of Selectmen has voted unanimously to delay the referendum on exercising the town's option to purchase Edgewood Bath and Tennis Club, currently scheduled for July 16th.  The resolution approves using the 90 day extension granted by the Seller of Edgewood for Southbury to complete its due diligence on the transaction.  A new date will be scheduled by the Board of Selectmen for the referendum.  In business transactions, the Southbury Selectmen say it's not uncommon for extensions or other considerations to be made so that the desired goals of both parties are met. The Board thanked the owners of the facility for their understanding and cooperation.

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Redding Parks and Rec relaxes Topstone beach reservation rules

The Redding Parks and Recreation Department has relaxed its reservation policy for Topstone Park beach.  Reservations were required, for residents only, but now Redding residents with ID can use the beach without a reservation after 4pm.  That's only if the park isn't at capacity.  Nonresidents are allowed to start using the beach now too, if they have a reservation.  Reservation requests can be emailed to topstonereservations@townofreddingct.org until 10am for that day on weekdays.  Emails must include visitors’ names, contact information, address, time request, and number of people in the group. Residents can make reservations 14 days in advance with only two of the three requests for weekend days. The reservations also can’t be for consecutive days. Nonresidents can request reservations two days in advance. The daily fee is $5 for residents and $15 for nonresidents.

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New Milford restaurant owners to retire after more than 3 decades

The longtime owners of Alfredo's Restaurant and Pizza in New Milford are retiring and handing the reins over to a new owner.  Mimi and Alfredo Leto's last day is tomorrow.  They started the restaurant in 1986 and are offering free pizza and limited free menu items to customers from 4 to 7pm.  Jose Salinas takes over for the couple on Friday. 

Mimi Leto started an event to raise funds for Canterbury School in New Milford some 20 years ago in honor of her son Joe.  The Giuseppe Leto Scholarship Fund is named for the U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. who was a member of Canterbury's class of 1997.  He died while on a conditioning hike at Camp Lejeune in 1999.  After going through boot camp on Paris Island, he reported to Camp Lejeune for 16 weeks of training.  The 21-year-old died during his third week in North Carolina. 

Last year was the final year the Run for Joe was held.  The event has raised more than $200,000 in support of the memorial scholarship fund, which provides financial assistance to a New Milford-area day student attending Canterbury School each year. 

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Proposed Branchville TOD project to be discussed in virtual meeting

The proposed Branchville Transit Oriented Development Pedestrian Improvements Project will be part of a virtual public involvement meeting next week.  Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi says the meeting on Wednesday, July 15th will begin at 6pm.  Preliminary design work has been completed by the Town and the project is planned for construction under the Transportation Alternatives component of the Federal Surface Transportation Program overseen by the Connecticut Department of Transportation.  Marconi says it's important that the community share its concerns to help in the project's development.  The virtual meeting will be held using Microsoft TEAMS, and streamed on the town website.

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Wilton First Selectman tests negative for COVID-19

There were little more than 5,000 coronavirus tests reported in Connecticut on Monday, down by about half from previous days.  Although testing is readily available, Wilton First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice says some residents have expressed apprehension about the test due to concerns that it may be painful.  She had the long swab test last week and said it was not painful.  Vanderslice acknowledged that there was some discomfort during the swabbing, but otherwise nothing.  Testing locations are found on the State’s 2-1-1 website.  She says the test result is only good for the moment in time when the test was performed.  So while Vanderslice says she was negative as of last Tuesday, she continues to wear a mask and social distance to protect herself and others should the status have changed since Tuesday. 

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Danbury Health Department reminds residents of COVID testing locations

The Danbury Department of Health and Human Services is working with community agencies and healthcare providers to expand access to COVID-19 testing. There are a number of places residents can get tested, some for free.  Although the State has recently reported the lowest number of new COVID-19 cases in the country, Acting Director Kara Prunty says it's important that residents continue to practice social distancing, use facial coverings, participate in contact tracing, adhere to self-quarantine recommendations, and get tested if there has been an exposure. Testing is available for free at the Community Health Center at 8 Delay Street, and the Connecticut Institute for Communities at 120 Main Street.  Both have mobile testing available.  Testing is also provided 7 days a week at AFC Urgent Care locations, CVS on Lake Avenue, DOCS Urgent Care on Padanaram Road and Nuvance Health primary care physicians offices.

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Standard & Poor's credit rating agency reaffirms Bethel's status

Standard & Poor’s credit rating agency has reaffirmed Bethel's AAA-stable status on long-term debt.  The organization issued an SP1+ rating on short-term debt.  Standard & Poors says that means it believes Bethel has a “very strong capacity” to pay its debt. The town has had theAAA rating since 2014.  The review was conducted ahead of the issuance of long- and- short-term notes for the renovations to Rockwell and Johnson schools.  At the time, Bethel officials said the good rating was important because the town would be able to borrow at lower interest rates for major capital projects like the school renovations.  Despite the effects the pandemic is having on the economy, Standard and Poors said Bethel's economy, financial policies and cash reserves are strong.  The review says the agency expects the primarily residential community to sustain strong underlying economic indicators, with its credit profile bolstered by significant reserves and cash and investments on hand.

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SBA details PPP recipients

The Small Business Administration has announced 16,495 small businesses in Connecticut’s 4th Congressional District received between $1.3 billion and $2.4 billion in loan assistance through the Paycheck Protection Program, supporting 140,916 jobs.

Among the organizations are The Ridgefield Playhouse and Adam Broderick in Ridgefield.

Congressman Jim Himes says the swift action stanched the bleeding and allowed Connecticut workers to keep lights on and food on the table. Adjustments were made after the initial release of funds to get more money in the hands of minority-owned businesses and businesses without strong banking connections. 

Many companies in the 5th Congressional District also received PPP loans including Caraluzzis and Hollandia in Bethel, La Pietra and the Regional YMCA in Brookfield, Blue Sky Behavioral Health and United Way in Danbury, and Sandy Hook Promise and CH Booth Library in Newtown.

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New Animal Control Facility in Danbury to be completed by fall

Work on the new Animal Control Facility in Danbury should be completed by this fall.  Public Works Director Antonio Iadarola says building material arrived last week and construction is on track for an October ribbon cutting. 

Despite improvements made a few years ago to bring the current building up to date with state regulations, animal control officials say it's still sub-standard to pounds of today.  The building was constructed in the early 70's, doesn't have heat or air conditioning, and there's no room to quarantine animals if they're sick.

Officials say a new building will give them a humane area to hold dogs before they're adopted. 

A $300,000 donation for the facility was received by the City last year from the estate of Ellen Levy, the late wife of Councilman Warren Levy.  The City ran into some expensive problems, which also caused lengthy delays.  Overhead wires had to be moved and an issue with the right or way ownership had to be resolved. 

$1 million in bonding was previously allocated.  The capital budget for the coming fiscal year includes another $700,000 for the work.

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Ridgefield Office of Emegency Management encourages ASL seminar participation

The Ridgefield Office of Emergency Management says American Sign Language is a great second language for everyone and is recognized by colleges around the county for language credit.  Understanding just a few basic ASL signs is an important skill for first responders and can be a life saver for anyone when verbal communication becomes difficult or impossible. An interpreter and instructor will present a free introductory ASL course via Zoom, in cooperation with the Ridgefield Library, starting on July 13th from 6pm to 7:30.  The ten-session course takes place twice a week.

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Wilton experiences spike in COVID cases

In less than 2 weeks there have been 14 new cases of COVID-19 in Wilton. Redding has had no new cases in two weeks. Greater Danbury area officials are calling on people to remember to wear a mask when they can't maintain 6 feet of distance from non-family members. Residents should also be vigilant in hand washing and use sanitizer when there's no access to soap and water.

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Bethel co. launches a pilot program for rental electric scooters in Bridgeport

Bethel-based Lynx has launched a pilot program for their rental electric scooters in Bridgeport.  125 of the devices have been deployed to the City to encourage residents to use the alternative form of public transportation.  Due to the current public health emergency, users are asked to wear gloves and wash their hands after using the rentals.  Lynx electric scooters are also on the streets of Bethel and New Milford.  The company also deployed a fleet to Orlando, Florida.  The scooters can be searched and unlocked using Lynx’s mobile phone application. They cost $1 to start the ride, and an additional 35 cents per minute, with a 30-mile range if fully-charged. Riders must be at least 18, wear a helmet, obey traffic laws, and give pedestrians the  right-of-way.

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Non-profit arts organizations receive CARES Act Emergency Relief Grants

33 non-profit arts organizations based in Connecticut’s 4th Congressional District will receive Connecticut CARES Act Emergency Relief Grants. The Connecticut Office of Arts awarded $350,000 in grants to 122 non-profit arts organizations statewide.  Among the organizations in the 4th District to receive funding are The Ridgefield Chorale, Ridgefield Guild of Artists, Ridgefield Theater Barn, Western Connecticut Youth Orchestra, Wilton Singers and Music on the Hill in Wilton.  Congressman Jim Himes says these grants will be used to preserve jobs and maintain Southwest Connecticut’s vibrant creative sector.  He added that artists and entrepreneurs boosts the economy by attracting tourism and encouraging economic investment.  The CARES Act is a wide-ranging economic rescue package. These one-time grants ranged from $1,500 to $3,000 per organization and were randomly selected with attention to geographic distribution.

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Retiring Bethel Police Chief Jeff Finch honored by Department

A flag ceremony and breakfast have been held in honor of retiring Bethel Police Chief Jeff Finch.  He was recognized outside the police station yesterday and dismissed the force one final time before retirement.  Bethel Police say for 23 years his administration held strength, experience, knowledge, reformation, and respect. Prior to coming to Bethel, Finch served 26 years with the Norwalk Police Department.  Captain Stephen Pugner will be the next Chief of the Bethel Police Department.  Under Finch, Bethel became one of the first departments in the state to become certified through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies.

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New Milford maintains rating from Standard & Poors

New Milford continues to have a AA+ rating from Standard & Poors.  Mayor Pete Bass and the Finance Director presented the town's finances to the Analysts recently.  New Milford's strong economy and projected per capita effective buying income, with strong financial policies and practices were cited by Standard & Poors for maintaining the rating.  New Milford was also credited for adequate budgetary performance, with balanced operating results in the general fund, strong budgetary flexibility and very strong liquidity, with total government available cash at 39.9% of total governmental fund expenditures.

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Petition prompts Ridgefield Conservation Commission to withdraw open space proposal

When a special town meeting is held in Ridgefield later this month about buying open space, there will only be on parcel on the agenda.  14 acres on Bear Mountain adjoins the Hemlock Hills open space.   But the Conservation Commission proposed also buying 1 acre at the end of Craigmoor Road, which allows access to open space that adjoins the former Garden of Ideas.  More than two dozen Craigmoor residents signed a petition in opposition to the proposal.  The say cul-de-sac property values will decrease, traffic will increase and potential environmental impacts are reasons not to buy the property.  Their biggest opposition was that the land would be used as an access point and parking lot to get to other open space land.  The Conservation Commission has now reversed its decision to acquire the state,  The July 15th meeting is just about the Bear Mountain purchase.

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Bull's Bridge Road lot closed as NPS sees misuse of natural resource

Visitors looking to enjoy a rural bit of scenery will see some changes to one popular place in Kent.  The gravel lot on Bull's Bridge Road is closed and has been blocked off.  Barriers and 'no parking' signs have increased along Route 7 south before the canal.  These decisions were made because of increased use and misuse in the National Parks Service area of the Appalachian trail.  A variable messaging sign had been deployed to the area on Route 7 and over 100 NPS closure signs have been put up on trees.  Snow fencing has been installed to block access the Blue Blaze Trail and river access along the Trail.  Additional 'no parking' signs have been installed further up Shaghticoke Road.

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Injured ATV riders rescued from the woods of New Milford

An injured ATV rider was rescued from the woods of New Milford Friday night.  Water Witch Hose fire company was called to help New Milford Ambulance in the woods behind Candlewood Lake Road North with a reported ATV accident.  A bystander on scene was able to guide first responders and equipment to the patient as well as remove 1 patient from the woods via Fourwheeler.  Ranger 1 was deployed to extricate a second patient from the trail with a leg injury. A team of firefighters, EMS , and police removed the patient from over 1/2 mile of trail; while battling steep terrain, wet rock ledge, heavy rain, and nearby thunderstorms.

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Two occupants extricated from vehicle in Bethel rollover

A rollover with entrapment was reported in Bethel late Friday morning.  One of the two occupants had minor injuries but refused EMS transport to the hospital.  Bethel and Stony Hill firefighters responded to a driveway on Jacobs Lane shortly after 10am.  Firefighters stabilized the car, which was found on its side.  They then successfully extricated two occupants.

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Wilton hires nurses as contact tracers due to HIPAA knowledge

Wilton's First Selectwoman is answering questions about the confidentiality of contact tracing.  When speaking with the identified contacts, the tracers do not disclose the identity of the patient.  Lynne Vanderslice says patients should not have to disclose their health status while wanting to help control the spread. Contact tracers allow patients to help confidentially.   She says Wilton specifically hired nurses as contact tracers for their knowledge of the the HIPAA law, which protects the confidentially of health information.

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Private group floats balloon at proposed Kent cell tower sites

A balloon float in Kent took place this weekend adjacent to the two proposed cell tower sites under consideration by the Connecticut Siting Council.  The balloon float was conducted by a private citizen group, Planned Development Alliance of Northwest Connecticut, Inc., which is a Party/Intervenor to the pending application.  Homeland Towers AT&T is seeking a Certificate of Environmental Compatibility and Public Need for the Construction at either along Richards Road or Bald Hill Road.  The balloon was flown on private property late Saturday morning.

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National Park Service closes trails around Bulls Bridge covered bridge

All National Park Service lands west of the Housatonic River and south from the Bull’s Bridge Road to Ten Mile River, including the river front Blue Blaze Trail are temporarily closed to all public access and use.  Use of the Appalachian Trail White Blaze trail is still allowed in this area. 

The National Parks Service says the Bulls Bridge area has been receiving very high levels of day-use visitation. Misuse in the area has resulted in resource damage, and illegal dumping.  This closure is temporary, with no established reopening date. 

Kent officials say this was not a decision made lightly; but that the safety and health of the public and protection of the land were important factors.  Emergency Management, Public Works and the Kent Resident State Trooper have been collaborating to address the increasing challenge to manage and monitor the natural resource area around Bull's Bridge covered bridge. 

The significant increase in day-use visitors to the area was due to the closure of Kent Falls State Park and many other outdoor nature areas.

 

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Social Services continue to operate the New Milford Food Bank

New Milford Social Services continue to operate the New Milford Food Bank.  The department continues to see an increase in residents needing food assistance. Volunteers recently manned the booth at the New Milford Farmer's Market so that those residents with SNAP benefits can use them at the market to obtain fresh food.  Social services and the Senior Center are also continuing to provide help to those that need energy assistance. The Social services team also has partnered with Economic Development Director Karen Pollard to work with those in need of employment.

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Congresswoman introduces Clean School Bus Act

A bill introduced by 5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes is part of a  comprehensive Congressional climate action framework.  The U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis included the bill which seeks to invest in green school buses.  The Clean School Bus Act is aimed at building a cleaner and more resilient transportation sector by reducing pollution from heavy duty trucks and buses.  Hayes says COVID-19, which directly threatens respiratory health, has made it clear that air pollution caused by the nation's school bus fleet must be addressed.  She added that people breathing in the fumes from diesel school buses compromises lung health, even absent a pandemic.  The proposed bill would provide $1 billion to help school districts across the country replace traditional school buses with electric ones. By reducing students’ exposure to diesel exhaust, Hayes says the bill would significantly cut down on asthma-related health incidents, increase attendance, and provide long-term savings to school districts.

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DEEP weighs in on navigation impact of proposed Candlewood Isle docks

A representative of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has filed a brief with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission about the proposed expansion of an existing marina at Candlewood Isle in New Fairfield.  Based on the Boating Division's review, Robert Hannon said the docks at the northern end, from a navigational perspective, do not pose a concern. 

But Hannon says the proposed docks adjacent to the tennis courts would likely cause navigation conflicts and transiting congestion between the proposed docks and the danger buoy in the middle of the waterway.  The two southernmost proposed docks would restrict access to the northern end of the cove, would likely limit the maneuvering area, and would force boaters to transit through a hazardous rocky/shallow area that is currently marked by the danger buoy.  The Boating Division recommends that these two dock sections be removed from the proposal. 

DEEP supports the proposed waiver of the shoreline vegetative buffer zone requirement for the slips proposed at the Clubhouse location, based on historical usage of that portion of the property for boating and beach-related activities.  The Department supports the installation of the enhanced vegetation buffer area along the shoreline associated with the tennis courts.

As part of its review of the proposed project, FirstLight has required the management of stormwater, removal of invasive species, removal of current lawn areas and the restoration of native plants.

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Putnam County set for Phase Four of reopening

Putnam County is set for Phase Four of reopening tomorrow.  But this comes at the same time that the County Health Director says a limited number of known positive cases, a result of travel to a state with high rates of positivity, have been identified. While this number remains small and the people have been isolated, the health director is concerned because residents overall have put in a lot of hard work.  Those found violating the New York travel-related quarantine order risk fines and potential loss of COVID-19 sick benefits. Violators may be subject to a judicial order and mandatory quarantine as well. A first violation could result in a $2,000 fine and could increase to $10,000 for subsequent violations or exposures.

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Brookfield firefighters remind motorists to move over passing accident sites

Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company responded to a two car crash this week on busy Federal Road and are now reminding motorists about some safety tips when driving through an active emergency scene.  Drivers should keep their eyes focused on the road and what is ahead.  Paying too much attention to the accident can cause a driver to miss brake lights ahead and dangerous road debris.  Drivers are urged to pay attention to signs, detours and traffic patterns ahead to increase the chances of being able to spot a problem, while still having enough time to react, which will decreases the chance of a rear-end collision.

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Bridgewater official urges residents to keep up with COVID-related guidance

Bridgewater First Selectman Curtis Read says the country's sense of independence is necessarily crimped on this Independence Day.  He says it's understandable to feel somewhat frustrated and impatient, but today should be dubbed “Dependence Day,” where everyone relies on each other to stay safe and healthy.

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Sherman firefighters modify annual Roast Beef Dinner fundraiser

Sherman Volunteer Fire Department will hold their annual Roast Beef Dinner fundraiser this year.  On Saturday, August 1st firefighters will be serving a take-out from the back of the firehouse by vehicle only; no walk-ups allowed.  Families are welcomed to stay and tailgate at The Green.  There will be live music, but families must bring their own chair or blanket and a mask.  Tickets for the event, from 4 to 7pm on August 1st, can be purchased in advance online through the Sherman Volunteer Fire Department website.

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Redding, Danbury announce plans for town office reopenings

Redding town offices will be following a three phase reopening plan.  Phase one, the closures, has had employees working remotely.  The Transfer Station is open; the Tax collector has a walk up window, and the Town Clerk, by appointment only, has been setting up outdoor meetings for business that can’t be done by telephone or email. 

Phase two includes opening to the public by appointment only. The Heritage Center and will remain closed to visitors. At this time no date for transitioning into the second phase has been set. 

The third phase will see municipal buildings open to the public for business as usual, no appointments required.

Danbury City Hall will have some employees return to the office on Monday.  One group of employees will work Mondays through Thursdays, and then the next group will be in the office the following week.  During the off time, employees will continue working remotely. 

Shifts will be staggered between 7:30am to 6 or 6:30pm. 

Visitors will be allowed back at Danbury City Hall by appointment only starting on July 27th.  Appointments will be available 10am to 4pm and visitors must wear masks and be signed in.   The number of appointments will be limited.

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Bethel Library fine forgiveness ending next week

A drop box is open at Bethel Public Library.  Any resident with materials checked out before the library closed to the public, is asked to return them soon.  The grace period for fines related to checked out materials will be ending on July 10th.  The library is closed today and tomorrow for the holiday weekend.  Curbside pick-up will resume on Sunday.

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Operation Dry Water searches for people boating under the influence

As boaters begin the July 4th holiday weekend, law enforcement officers across Connecticut will be on heightened alert looking for those boating under the influence.  State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Environmental Conservation Police are working in partnership with the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, local law enforcement, and the U.S. Coast Guard.  National Operation Dry Water is a heightened awareness and enforcement weekend from today through Sunday.  DEEP is working to increase boater awareness of the dangers and risks associated with boating under the influence and will be on the on Connecticut’s lakes, ponds, and rivers, as well as Long Island Sound. Boaters will notice an overall increase in officer patrols at recreational boating checkpoints as well.  EnCon Captain Keith Williams says alcohol use can impair a boater’s judgement, balance, vision and reaction time.  In Connecticut, it is illegal to operate a vessel with a blood alcohol content level of 0.08 – the same as it is to operate a vehicle. 

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Masks not being worn on Still River Greenway prompt reminders

The Still River Greenway in Brookfield is open, and many residents are using it. But First Selectman Steve Dunn says he's getting numerous reports that many people are not wearing masks.  There are also people running without masks on and others are using bicycles on the path, which is currently only open to walkers.  Dunn called on residents to protect each other by only walking on the Greenway and wearing a mask at during the entire walk.  He says they want to keep the Greenway open and keep residents safe at the same time and to do both, everyone has to follow the rules.

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Brookfield is expecting $1.245 million in savings

The Town of Brookfield is expecting $1.245 million in savings once the 2019-20 fiscal year numbers are confirmed.  There is a projected $400,000 savings on the school side of the budget and $845,000 on the municipal side.  The money will be placed into the capital nonrecurring fund and could cover unexpected costs in this new fiscal year.  First Selectman Steve Dunn says the town savings were thanks to a mild winter, which kept down overtime and salt costs.  There were also across the board spending cuts and positions left vacant.  On the school side, savings cam from transportation and sports line items.  Brookfield has about $2 million worth of capital projects awaiting voter approval in a referendum.

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Local fire Departments awarded FEMA grants

Some local fire Departments are among 68 nationwide to be awarded FEMA grants.  The $10.7 million in Assistance for Firefighters Grant is a COVID-19 supplemental program.  Sandy Hook Fire Department is receiving $2600, Oxford firefighters will get $600.  The money is coming from one of three FEMA grant programs that focus on enhancing the safety of the public and firefighters with respect to fire and fire-related hazards. The money can be used for critical Personal Protective Equipment and supplies needed to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the COVID-19 public health emergency.  Additional phases are expected to be announced.

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Driver escapes fiery rollover crash without injuries

A car rolled over and caught fire in Danbury yesterday evening.  Danbury Police, Fire and EMS units responded to Backus Avenue near Fed Ex around 8:30pm.  The driver, the only person in the SUV, was able to escape the crash without injuries.  Firefighters extinguished the flames.  EMS checked out the driver, and the Fire Marshal is investigating the blaze.  Police are completing an investigation.  The road was closed for about 90 minutes while everything was cleaned up.

(Photo: DFD)

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Two vehicles stolen from Willow Springs condo complex in New Milford

Two vehicles were stolen from the Willow Springs condo complex in New Milford last Thursday.  Police yesterday called on the the public to help identify a potential suspect in the motor vehicle theft investigation.  The 2016 Volkswagen Jetta and a 2018 Dodge Charger were unlocked with the keys in them.  Police say the suspects drove to an unidentified drive-thru on Route 7 in New Milford and were captured on surveillance video.  Police ask anyone who can identify the potential male suspect in photos on their Facebook page to call Officer Bove at 860-355-3133, ext. 2496.

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Water Witch Hose firefighters get new uniforms, to host parade

Water Witch Hose Company of New Milford will celebrate a new tradition this Independence Day.  Around 2pm on Saturday, Veteran Members of the fire department will don Traditional Class A Uniforms and make their way from the firehouse up to New Milford Town Hall.  Firefighters will be met by other members in new Class A Uniforms. Company officials say the Traditional Red's that have been known for over 150 years have become obsolete. 

After months of planning, the public is invited to the New Milford Town Green to witness a little piece of History.  Participants are asked to maintain social distance. 

New Milford's Fireworks were cancelled this year, so the firefighters will hold a Parade down Route 7 on Saturday at 7pm. The parade will start at fire headquarters head around the green and travel all the way down Route 7.

It will then make a special trip into the Lone Oak and Perry Drive Communities.  Fire Company officials say these two neighborhoods had some of the best signs during the Unity Parade.  Spectators are asked to maintain social distance.

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Putnam County urges 'snow-bird' residents to follow travel advisories

As Putnam County prepares for Phase Four of reopening slated for Tuesday, the Putnam County Department of Health recommends “snow-bird” residents follow guidance regarding travel advisories.  While much is still unknown for communities and businesses, such as when gyms will reopen or if indoor dining will remain a part of phase four, the County Health District recommends residents postpone distant travel plans and instead, invest time and money into the local economy via staycations.  Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell says there's plenty of outdoor dinging, trails and lakes for families to enjoy.  She highlighted the tourism website putnamcountyny.com/tourputnam.

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Bethel taxes can be paid via Apple Pay, Google Pay

Effective immediately, Bethel residents can pay tax and utility bills directly from a smart phone using Apple Pay or Google Pay.  Any Bethel resident with an account set up using either of these services will see an icon appear on the phone automatically while accessing the Invoice Cloud system through the tax collector's online payment link on the town website.  Just as with any credit card transaction, Bethel officials are reminding residents that a service fee will still be applied.

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Absentee ballot application drop box set up at Bethel Municipal Center

Applications for the Presidential Primary have been mailed to every registered Democrat and Republican in Connecticut.  The Bethel Town Clerk says a state-issued secure Ballot/Application Drop Box under surveillance is being installed today opposite the Town of Bethel Drop Box in front of the Municipal Center.  The applications are to be returned to the Town Clerk's Office.  Absentee ballots for the presidential contests, and the State Senate District #26 will not be available until July 21st.

(Photo: Bethel Town Clerk Facebook)

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Brookfield retreat to address diversity, equity and race in educational priorities

The Brookfield Board of Education and the district Superintendent are scheduling a summer retreat to set specific and actionable objectives to address diversity, equity and race in educational priorities.  Several former students recently shared stories about their racial experiences in Brookfield. The board members say they want to act in a responsible, actionable and meaningful way to address these issues. Brookfield School officials say they are committed to ensuring all students, staff members and families feel welcome, safe and supported.

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Danbury Fire Marshal officer 4th of July safety reminders

The Danbury Fire Marshal's Office says while families are celebrating Independence Day weekend, an adult must supervise fireworks activities. Sparklers burn at temperatures of about 2,000 degrees - hot enough to melt some metals.  According to statics from Connecticut State Police Fire and Explosion Unit; since 2015 there have been 91 fires that have been directly attributed to individuals using fireworks and 36 individuals have sustained injuries that were serious enough that required them to be transported to emergency room.

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Special Town Meeting in Ridgefield to decide on open space purchase

A Special Town Meeting is being held in Ridgefield later this month about the purchase of a parcel of open space.  Conservation Commission funds and a grant would pay for the acquisition of 14 acres on Bear Mountain, adjoining Hemlock Hills open space.  The meeting will be held July 15th at 7:30pm via Zoom videoconferencing. 

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Danbury Hospital drive-through COVID-19 specimen collection site to close

Nuvance Health will be transitioning its COVID-19 drive-through specimen collection sites in Connecticut and New York to onsite locations throughout the system.  Since mid-March, there were over 47,600 total specimens collected at four drive-through sites.  Nuvance Health Medical Practices president Dr. Chris Lehrach says nearly 20,000 of those were collected at Danbury Hospital.

Lehrach says the sites were not intended to be permanent.   They were set up outside to unburden the emergency department, which was not prepared to do the type of testing that would require negative pressure testing rooms to keep staff and patients safe.  They were also placed outside because of the type of testing.  

The technology has changed.  Only a nasal swab is required now.  Lehrach says a nasal swab is less invasive and causes less patient discomfort when compared to a nasopharyngeal swab.  That one can produce a gag reflect and produce an aerosolization of the virus.  Patients can self-administer the nasal swab but a healthcare professional will assist those who cannot.

Staff doing the testing were taken out of various departments, which are now getting back to business as usual and need those employees back. 

Lehrach says Nuvance Health is paying attention to what's happening across the country, and is mindful of the trends.  He notes that the number of tests completed in Connecticut is not going down because health care workers are required to be tested, people going in for routine medical procedures are tested, and public awareness has others interested in knowing if they are asymptomatic.

Nuvance Health will decommission the drive-through collection site at Danbury and Norwalk Hospitals on July 4, though the Norwalk date is subject to change.

COVID-19 testing will be available at Nuvance Health Medical Practices’ primary care locations in Connecticut and New York for new or existing patients experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or patients previously confirmed positive who require clearance to return to work. Patients who want a COVID-19 test are asked to first schedule a Virtual Visit with a primary care clinician.

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Danbury Fire Marshal's Office reminds residents of sparkler safety tips

With the three-day 4th of July holiday weekend starting tomorrow, the Danbury Fire Marshal's Office is reminding residents of some safety tips when using sparklers.  The Fire Marshal suggests avoiding buying fireworks that are packaged in brown paper because this is often a sign that the fireworks were made for professional displays and that they could pose a danger to consumers.  People using sparklers and fountains are reminded not to have any part of the body be directly over a device when lighting the fuse and to back up to a safe distance immediately after lighting the fuse.  Sparklers and fountains should not be carried in a pocket or ignited in a metal or glass container.  You should never  try to re-light or pick up fireworks that hasn't ignited fully.  A bucket of water or a garden hose should be nearby in case of a mishap. 

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Lone star tick population on the rise in Fairfield, New Haven counties

The Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station is reporting the rapid range expansion and established populations of the lone star tick in Fairfield and New Haven Counties. 

The agency says there is a potential for altering the dynamics of a myriad of existing and emerging tick-borne diseases in the state and throughout the Northeast.  Previously limited to the southeastern U.S., the lone star ticks have been detected in areas of the northeastern U.S with no previous record of activity including Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, and Rhode Island. 

A research scientist who directs the Tick Surveillance and Testing Program says the number of lone star ticks submitted for testing increased by 58% from the period of 1996 through 2006 to 2007 through 2017, mainly from Fairfield County.  Established populations of lone star ticks were discovered in Fairfield and New Haven Counties in 2018 and 2019, respectively. 

As an aggressive human biter with highly irritating bites, the lone star tick has been associated with several human diseases and medical conditions, including tularemia, ehrlichiosis, rickettsiosis, Heartland virus disease, southern tick-associated rash illness, red meat allergy and likely the newly identified Bourbon virus disease.

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New American Dream Foundation COVID-19 Hot Meal Program helping seniors

The New American Dream Foundation COVID-19 Hot Meal Program started to help students in need during the school year.  Now they're serving 530 seniors in need at Palace View, Kimberly Place, Danbury Towers, Augustana Homes, Putnam Towers, Glen Apartments, and Crosby Manor.  The New American Dream Foundation is looking for volunteers to give two hours of their time on Saturdays , from 10:30am to noon, to help deliver meals.  The Foundation is also asking for donations to fund meals over the summer. 100-percent of proceeds do toward meals, with $5 providing 1 meal, $20 helping 4 seniors and $500 feeding 100.

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Residents voice opposition to proposed affordable housing projects in Bethel

The Bethel Planning and Zoning Commission heard from a number of residents as the group considers two applications for affordable housing projects, one on Good Hill Road and the other on Shelley Drive.  Some of the concerns raised during the virtual public hearing were about traffic safety and fitting the character of the neighborhoods.  The applications are being made under the state's 8-30g statute, which allows developers to bypass zoning laws if a certain number of units are designated as affordable housing.  There are some exceptions for public health, welfare and safety.   The hearings were continued to July 28th.  The Bethel Inland Wetland Commission approved the Shelley Road project  in May The Good Hill Road project is still under consideration.

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Frey appointed to National Advisory Council on Historic Preservation

Ridgefield State Representative John Frey, who is not seeking reelection this year, has been appointed by President Trump to serve on the The National Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.  He spent more than two decades representing the 111th state House District. 

The independent bipartisan federal agency promotes the preservation, enhancement, and productive use of our nation's historic resources.  The group advises the President and Congress on national historic preservation policy. 

Frey will serve a 4 year term on the council, which meets several times a year in Washington DC. 

He lives in a restored 1753 house, once the home of a revolutionary war soldier, is a member of the State Capitol Preservation and Restoration Commission, a former trustee of the Ridgefield Historical Society and served as President of the Lounsbury House, formerly the home of the late Connecticut Governor Phineas C. Lounsbury.  Frey is one of Connecticut’s representatives to the National Republican Committee and in 2007 was appointed by then President Bush to the Commission on White House Fellowships.

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New Milford Police to patrol for DWIs this holiday weekend

The Independence Day holiday weekend is on the horizon.  New Milford Police Chief Spencer Cerruto is reminding residents that fireworks of any type are dangerous. The only legal options in Connecticut are sparklers and ground fountains that say on the package they emit showers of sparks.  Fireworks that fly or explode, including firecrackers, skyrockets, bottle rockets, roman candles and any firework containing any explosive or flammable compound, are illegal in Connecticut.  New Milford Police will have patrols out this weekend to be on the lookout for drunk driving. Chief Cerruto says if someone is about to drive while impaired, friends should take their keys and help them make other arrangements to get to where they are going safely.

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Nuvance Health to decommission COVID-19 drive-through specimen collection sites

Nuvance Health will be transitioning its COVID-19 drive-through specimen collection sites in Connecticut and New York to onsite locations throughout the system.

Since mid-March, there were over 47,600 total specimens collected at four drive-through sites.  Nuvance Health Medical Practices president Dr. Chris Lehrach says nearly 20,000 of those were collected at Danbury Hospital.

Nuvance Health will use a nasal swab to collect specimen samples for a test. A nasal swab is less invasive and causes less patient discomfort when compared to a nasopharyngeal swab. Patients can self-administer the nasal swab but a healthcare professional will assist those who cannot.

Nuvance Health will decommission the drive-through collection site at Danbury and Norwalk Hospitals on July 4, though the Norwalk date is subject to change.

Lehrach says the drive-through sites were set up to provide residents and patients convenient and safe access to COVID-19 testing during the height of the pandemic.  As Connecticut observes a decrease in new infections, Nuvance will continue to provide access to testing at locations throughout the health system.  But the steady decrease prompted Nuvance Health to consider how to provide patients with expedient access to COVID-19 testing as it resumes more procedures, surgeries, and routine health care at its hospitals, medical practices, and outpatient facilities.

COVID-19 testing will be available at Nuvance Health Medical Practices’ primary care locations in Connecticut and New York for new or existing patients experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, or patients previously confirmed positive who require clearance to return to work. Patients who want a COVID-19 test are asked to first schedule a Virtual Visit with a primary care clinician. 

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State Police Special Licensing and Firearms Unit to temporarily shut down

Connecticut State Police Special Licensing and Firearms Unit will be converting to a new database and background check system.  In order to transition to the new system, the unit will temporarily shut down on July 10th at 3pm.  The unit will reopen on July 14th for regular hours.  During the data transfer, firearm transfers will not be authorized. 

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New Milford Superintendent of Schools announces resignation

After a year on the job, the New Milford Superintendent of Schools has announced her resignation.  Kerry Parker made the announcement in an email to families yesterday, saying she will be taking a position with a school district in Colorado.  Her message did not say what that position would be, only that it came up last week.  She was selected by the New Milford Board of Education from a national pool of 26 applicants.

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Sherman launches initiative aimed at reducing speeding, erratic driving

The Town of Sherman is launching an initiative aimed at reducing speeding and erratic driving.  First Selectman Don Lowe says anyone who sees a dangerous driver should, if possible, record the location, time and a vehicle description or event a license plate number.  He says this will be especially helpful for the Sherman Resident State Trooper for repeat offenders.  The information can be emailed to Trooper Wayne Tate or to Lowe.  The information will be noted by state police so Lowe says they can better station themselves at the right place and time to offer the proper guidance to the speeding driver. shermanresidenttrooper@gmail.com or dlowe@townofshermanct.org.

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Appeals court says prison radon lawsuit can move forward

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled that a group of Connecticut prison inmates can move forward with a lawsuit that accuses the state of failing to protect them from exposure to dangerous radon gas.

The lawsuit is one of two filed by current and former prisoners and guards at the Garner Correctional Institution in Newtown. It accuses officials of creating unconstitutional and inhumane conditions of confinement inside the maximum-security prison by exposing them to extremely high levels of the naturally occurring radioactive gas.

A separate lawsuit by former guards and staff members, several of whom suffer from respiratory ailments, is moving forward in state court. It asserts the staff should have been informed of the radon problem.

The lawsuits allege the state knew about the potential for problems with radon at Garner when it was opened in 1992 but did not begin testing until 2013, when it was requested by a teacher at the prison’s school. The state has required radon testing at all schools since 2003.

Those tests found extremely high levels of radon inside the classrooms.

The state Attorney General’s office, which sought to dismiss the lawsuit, said Monday’s decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd District found only that the state was not immune from such lawsuits.

The office said it will continue to defend the Department of Correction on the merits of the case.

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Wilton official concerned with spike in COVID cases among young people

Wilton First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice says the recent round of reopenings may have given Wilton residents a false sense of security about COVID-19 virus.  She says the virus is still very much out there and continues to be highly contagious. The State’s gathering guidelines are based on an expectation that residents wear masks and social distance.  Across the country young adults are increasingly the largest share of new cases.  It is no different in Connecticut.  Residents aged 20 to 29 have accounted for almost 24% of new cases during Phase 2, more than twice their share of cases before the State’s reopening.  Residents aged 10-19 have also increased their share of new cases, which Vanderslice says is most likely due to those on the higher end of the age range.

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Newtown Police investigate reports of cars entered, stolen car

The Newtown Police Department is investigating another case of a stolen motor vehicle.  Sometime during the overnight hours Monday into Tuesday, a black 2017 Mazda CX5 was stolen from a Canterbury Road home.  Several other 911 calls were received from different areas of town reporting that cars had been opened up and rummaged through.  Newtown Police are also investigating a hit-and-run accident involving a mailbox on South Main Street.  A yellow Penske box-style truck backed into a mailbox and fled.  The rental truck was driven by a woman and had a Virginia license plate.

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Newtown town offices to reopen today

Newtown town offices will be opening today, with several precautions in place.  Visitors will be asked to self-check for fever and symptoms before coming in. 

Protective face coverings will be required.  If someone cannot or will not wear a face covering, Newtown employees will serve them in an alternative way, be it outdoors, electronically or otherwise. Visitors are being asked to use their own pens, and a visitor log will be kept for each department.  Advance appointments are recommended. 

Bathrooms will be labeled, “Staff” and “Public”, although in an emergency, a resident will be permitted to use the staff facility.  

Hand sanitizing stations are currently provided in the lobby at each of the entrances.  All high touch areas such as doorknobs and countertops will be sanitized frequently.  Staff will be required to wear face coverings, gloves are optional.

The Newtown Tax Collector will be offering exterior services from the Community Center side of the municipal building.  Lawn signs will be placed on both sides of the building with location indicators.  No cash may be accepted at the exterior window.  The Newtown Town Clerk will be accepting transactions through the Drop Box on the Tax side of the building.  The Newtown Land Use, Building and Health departments are only able to take cash and checks.

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Route 55 in New Milford, Sherman to be milled and paved

A road project is set to get underway in New Milford and Sherman tomorrow.  Route 55 will be milled from Route 7 to the New York State line.  The roadway will then be resurfaced.  The work will be deon Monday through Friday 7am to 4pm.  Work is scheduled to wrap up by July 13th.  There will be alternating one lane travel and motorists are cautioned to expect delays.  Traffic control personnel and signs will be up to alert drivers.  The project is part of the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s 2020 Vendor Resurfacing Program. 

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