Local Headlines Archives for 2020-12

Putnam County Sheriff K9 retires

A Putnam County Sheriff K9 has retired.  Sentinel joined the Department in December of 2014. His handler, Sergeant Keith, did extensive training with Sentinel which led to his successful certification as a patrol and explosives detection K9.  Sentinel was presented with a proclamation and certificate of retirement by Sheriff Langley and Captain Tompkins.  He was sent off with a Department-wide salute. 

(Photo: PCSD)

 

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House fires extinguished in Woodbury, Bethlehem

A house was damaged by fire this week in Bethlehem, but the occupant and 4 pets were rescued safely.   Bethlehem Fire Department responded to Magnolia Hill Road Tuesday evening and found found heavy flames showing from the front of the home. The fire was extinguished with over 50 firefighters on scene.  The cause of the fire was determined to be accidental. 

Mutual aid was provided by  Watertown Fire Department, Morris Fire Company, Woodbury Fire Department, and Bantam Fire Company.  Connecticut State Police Troop L also responded.  Bethlehem Ambulance responded to the call as well. 

A fire at a Woodbury home damaged the structure, but there were no reported injuries.  Firefighters responded to a home on Sycamore Avenue late Tuesday night.  Mutual aid was provided by Southbury firefighters and others.

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Two soldiers honored in New Milford

Two soldiers have been recognized in New Milford.  A ceremony was held on the Green this week to honor Master Sargent Kristina Nichols for her promotion in the U-S Air Force.  The rank takes upwards of 20 years to achieve, but Nichols achieved this rank in 12 years.   Lt Thomas Lang was welcomed home during the ceremony from his time overseas.  Lang is in charge of 1st Platoon, Bayonet Company, 1-5 Infantry “Bobcats” in Operation Inherent Resolve 19-20, Iraq. The American Legion and the VFW hosted the ceremony

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Local lawmaker called on colleagues to take up 'public option' for health care

Given the nearly year long public health emergency, some state lawmakers are considering ways to improve the health care system and lower the cost of health care.  Ridgefield state Senator Will Haskell wants his colleagues to consider a public healthcare option in Connecticut.  Haskell says this would allow individuals, small business employees and nonprofit employees to buy into the state's affordable, high-quality healthcare plan.  He added that it could enhance competition within the health insurance marketplace as well.

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Danbury posts info on tax deferral program

The Danbury Tax Assessor and Collector offices have posted information about the tax deferral being offered for taxes due January 1st.  There is an application that taxpayers have to fill out by February 1st in order to be eligible.  Based off their experience with the first deferral, authorized through a gubernatorial executive order, they're reminding people to accurately complete the application and provide any required proof in order to be considered for the tax deferral. Taxpayers will be notified if they are approved, or if further information is needed.  This is for residents, businesses, non-profits, and landlords financially impacted by COVID-19.  Escrowed real estate accounts are not eligible for tax deferral.  Residents must show at least a 20-percent lost of income due to the pandemic in order to be eligible.

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Local municipal leaders testify in PURA hearing on utility storm response

The formal Public Utilities Regulatory Authority investigation of Eversource and their response to the August tropical storm has started.  It will run through the first week of January. 

Bethel First Selectman Knickerbocker was the first person to testify.  Bethel had joined with New Fairfield, Newtown and Ridgefield in potential legal action.  The other three municipal leaders also testified about their towns experiences with the utility post-storm during the first hearing. 

Knickerbocker was on the Zoom hearing for about 5 hours.  That included 60 minutes of cross examination by lawyers for Eversource.  He was also questioned by DEEP staff, Office of Consumer Counsel, Office of the Attorney General and members of PURA. 

Knickerbocker heard that his testimony was well received, the cross examination did not poke holes in positions that the municipalities took.  He watched testimony from the towns of Westport, Monroe and Weston.  They had identical concerns.  More than a dozen other towns have also provided testimony.

Knickerbocker says PURA appears to be predisposed to give them regulatory relief and making sure there's a better response from utilities in the future.

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Ridgefield students to return to school in hybrid mode

When winter break ends for Ridgefield students, they will resume classes in a hybrid model.  All Ridgefield Public Schools had been on remote learning leading up to the break.  School health and safety liaison Aaron Crook said in a letter to families that reducing person density in school buildings is a mitigation strategy to further prevent the spread of COVID-19.  The district also planned to take other mitigation efforts during the break.  Ridgefield High School and students in the two middle schools had been learning in the hybrid model before winter break, but this will be a change for the six elementary schools which had full in-person learning.

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Some local school districts change quarantine length based on CDC guidance

Outgoing state Education Commissioner Miguel Cardona has passed along new guidance to school superintendents about the length of quarantine time required for teachers and staff who are exposed to COVID-19.  The change from 14 days down to 10 days is in response to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  Bethel, Brookfield and Newtown are among the districts that plan to adopt the new guidance, based on consultations with local health departments.  The Easton, Redding and Region 9 district however is keeping the longer, 14 day quarantine requirement.

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Danbury sees downward trend of COVID-19 cases

After a spike in late November, which was larger than the height of the first wave of the pandemic in April, it appears that Danbury's COVID-19 positive results are back on the decline.  The Health Department is seeing a downward trend on the latest curve.  Though they are cautioning that the impact of Christmas get togethers won't be shown for another week or so.  There is also a hesitation if Danbury residents celebrate New Years with people outside of their immediate household.  Last week Danbury recorded 166 positive COVID-19 cases, compared to 257 the week before.  To date for December, the City has recorded 1,219 cases, compared to 1,625 the month before.

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Danbury condo fire leaves one person in critical condition

A reported garage fire in the Sterling Woods Townhouse complex off of Nabby Road sent one person to the hospital in critical condition.  Danbury firefighters responded to the unit shortly after 8am and could see a large column of smoke as the approached.  A large amount of flames were coming from the garage of a 2 ½ story wood frame condo end unit.  The call was upgraded to a 3rd alarm, bringing in a larger response.

The fire was brought under control shortly after 9am.

(Photo: DFD)

One occupant was home at the beginning of the fire and self-evacuated. Danbury Hospital EMS was on scene and transported the occupant to Danbury Hospital Center ER in critical condition.

The Red Cross was contacted to assist the occupants. The fire was contained to the single end unit only displacing one family. The Danbury Fire Marshal’s Office was requested to the scene and is in the process of investigating the cause of the fire which is deemed as undetermined at this time.

No other injuries were reported and adjacent unit occupants were permitted to re-occupy at the end of the incident.

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Lawyer: Convicted businessman stabbed in domestic incident

GLASTONBURY, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut businessman convicted in what prosecutors called a human trafficking ring that preyed on young men was stabbed Tuesday night in an apparent domestic violence episode, according to his lawyer.

Bruce Bemer has been released from the hospital and is expected to fully recover after the attack at his Glastonbury home, his lawyer, Anthony Spinella, said Wednesday.

Glastonbury police said they charged Jason McCormick, Bemer's longtime domestic partner, with attempted murder and other crimes. McCormick was detained on $500,000 bail. It wasn't immediately clear if he has a lawyer who could respond to the allegations.

Police said they found the victim with stab wounds in the garage and McCormick nearby with self-inflicted knife wounds to his arms.

Glastonbury police Lt. Corey Davis said he could not release the name of the victim because of domestic violence laws.

Spinella said the attack was unprovoked.

“My client is going to recover from the injuries he sustained in an unprovoked attack. So we’re grateful for that,” he said.

Bemer was sentenced to 10 years in prison last year after being convicted of patronizing victims of human trafficking. He has denied the allegations and has been free pending an appeal.

Bemer, who owns the New London-Waterford Speedbowl racetrack and other companies, was one of three men convicted in the trafficking ring, which prosecutors said preyed on young men who were mentally ill and intellectually disabled.

Police have said they identified at least 15 victims, but believe there could be dozens more dating back to the 1990s.

One of the other men convicted in the case, Robert King, of Danbury, found some of the victims at drug rehab centers, police said. According to arrest warrants, he would give them drugs, including heroin and cocaine, and take them to Bemer and other men for sex acts so they could earn money to pay him back for the drugs.

Bemer admitted he patronized prostitutes but denied any role in human trafficking.

King was sentenced to more than four years in prison last year.

The third man, William Trefzger, of Westport, pleaded guilty to patronizing a trafficked person and was sentenced to a year in prison.

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Danbury lawmaker wants workers' comp bill on PTSD expanded to more professions

Connecticut's part time legislature was set to take up an amendment to a bill last session, before it was derailed by the pandemic, which would have provided certain workers’ compensation benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder to EMTs, correctional officers and emergency dispatchers.  The bill required the Labor and Public Employees Committee to review the feasibility of extending the law. 

Danbury Senator Julie Kushner says the original bill only covered firefighters, police and parole officers.  She says they should look into covering health care workers too.

Kushner wants the Labor Committee, which she chairs, to take up another idea.  She says employees who contract COVID-19 on the job should have a presumption for workers’ compensation benefits so they don't have to wade through months of hearings.

Given the pandemic's effect on the workforce, Kushner also proposed the committee look into hazard pay and staffing ratios.

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NY man indicted for his role in car theft ring

Danbury Police, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department, the FBI and others investigated a case which has now led to a federal grand jury returning a five-count indictment against a New York man for his alleged role in a car theft ring.  U.S. Attorney John Durham says 24-year old Josepher Cartagena of the Bronx was charged with conspiracy to possess and transport stolen vehicles and related offenses. 

Law enforcement in Connecticut and New York have been investigating a car theft ring that, for at least the past six months, has been conducting coordinated burglaries of car dealerships in Connecticut and elsewhere.  They allegedly often hit multiple locations in one night.  The indictment alleged that the suspects would break in, take key fobs, and use them to identify and steal vehicles. 

The group, which also is believed to have burglarized mobile phone stores, is allegedly responsible for the theft of more than 40 vehicles in Connecticut, New York and elsewhere.  The value of the stolen property is estimated to be in the millions of dollars.

The indictment specifically alleges that, on July 28, Cartagena stole a 2020 Jeep Gladiator Rubicon from a Danbury home and drove the vehicle to New York.  On July 29, Cartagena and others broke into an auto dealership in Milford and stole multiple key fobs and a 2019 Jeep Grand Cherokee, which they drove to New York. 

On July 31, group members returned to the Milford dealership and used one of the stolen key fobs to steal a 2020 Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland. It is alleged that Cartagena has fled from law enforcement in high-speed car chases on multiple occasions.  When law enforcement first attempted to arrest Cartagena on a federal arrest warrant, Cartagena dropped a firearm and was able to escape by ramming multiple FBI vehicles with his vehicle, which was stolen. 

Investigators apprehended Cartagena late at night on December 23 after an all-day search. A court-authorized search of Cartagena’s residence revealed hundreds of thousands of dollars of suspected stolen merchandise and approximately $89,000 in cash.

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Danbury Hospital participates in AstraZeneca COVID-19 vaccine trial

Another COVID-19 vaccine is progressing through clinical trials and Danbury Hospital will be part of the next phase.  Nuvance Health is participating in a clinical trial to test the efficacy of the vaccine developed by Oxford University and the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca.  It's the only health system in Connecticut to be involved in the study. 

Nuvance Vice president of Research and Innovation Joann Petrini said in a statement that they are excited to participate in this trial locally to help identify a safe and effective COVID-19 vaccine.  Participants will be monitored for two years, with visits to Danbury Hospital six times for assessments. 

Britain has become the first country to greenlight the easy-to-handle shot, granting an emergency authorization for the vaccine.  Pfizer or Moderna vaccines have been approved for emergency use for adults in the United States.  The AstraZeneca vaccine can be stored and transported at normal refrigerator temperatures, unlike Pfizer’s, which must be kept in an ultra-cold freezer.

Nuvance Health includes Danbury, Norwalk, Sharon and New Milford hospitals in Connecticut.

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Feeding Our Neighbors Challenge surpasses fundraising goal

It was worth it for former Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton to don a chicken suit and run down West Street.  The Feeding Our Neighbors Challenge has surpassed its goal of $100,000.  Organizers say this was a major boost of support for food pantries and Danbury families in the ongoing challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.  While the fundraiser was a success, officials say people can still donate to the United Way's Food Collaborative.  The challenge was kicked off by three local banks in response to the donation from comedian John Oliver to the Connecticut Food Bank. 

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Local museums awarded COVID-19 relief grants

Several local organizations are receiving grants from the Connecticut Humanities’ COVID-19 Relief Fund for Connecticut Museums.  54 recipients were identified by the Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development and Connecticut Office of the Arts, including the Keeler Tavern Museum and the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum in Ridgefield, The Gunn Memorial Library & Museum and the Institute for American Indian Studies in Washington.  Connecticut Humanities allocated funding from the state through the CARES Act.  The Aldrich is getting little more than $45,000 while the other are set to receive nearly $23,000 each.  Wilton Historical Society was also named a recipient.

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Redding Highway Department to collect old live Christmas trees

The Redding Highway Department will be picking up Christmas trees on a house by house basis beginning next week, and continuing through January 11th.  Residents must call the department and schedule a pick up at 203-938-2801.  Trees must be placed at the curb,with everything removed.  They can not have lights, tinsel or ornaments still attached, and trees in plastic bags will not be accepted.  Collections may be delayed due to inclement weather.  If significant snow accumulation occurs trees must be placed on top of the snow. The Highway Department will not dig out trees.  Trees are also accepted at the Recycling Center free of charge during normal business hours.  They will be chipped, and the chips will be available at the Recycling Center free of charge to residents.

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New Fairfield offers tax deferment, low interest programs

New Fairfield officials are reminding residents about Governor Lamont's Executive Order providing tax relief for property owners and businesses affecting taxes due January 1st.  The Board of Selectmen voted to offer both a tax deferment and a low interest rate program, with taxpayers being able to chose. 

The tax deferment program delays the last day to pay property taxes, including real estate, personal property and motor vehicle taxes, by 90 days to April 1st.  To be eligible, a resident must attest to a 20% reduction in household income resulting from being furloughed without pay, a significant reduction in hours or loss of employment since April 2020.  Taxes paid through an Escrow account cannot be deferred. 

The Application for this program can be found on the New Fairfield Town website.  The application must be received by the Tax Collector on or before February 1st. 

The Low Interest Rate program reduces the interest charged on the January 1st tax installment for 90 days. The reduced rate is set at 3% per annum, or 0.25% per month.  There is no eligibility requirement for this program; however the reduced rate can only be realized if payment is made.

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New Fairfield continues trend of COVID-19 increases

Since last Monday, New Fairfield has reported 35 new, confirmed cases of COVID-19 making 57 active cases in town.  First Selectman Pat Del Monaco urged residents to continue wearing masks, social distancing and staying home when they can.  She says this will help lessen the strain on health care workers and hospitals.  She cautioned that the testing data this week and next could bring a false sense of safety because there was no widespread testing available on Christmas Day, nor was there any official data reported through the weekend.

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Testing sites inundated ahead of Christmas, results slowed

Testing sites across the state were inundated last week as people looked to be tested for COVID-19 ahead of Christmas.  Kent First Selectman Jean Speck says this included the weekly site set up for the northwest corner.  She notes that the lab has been working to get tests processed as they understand residents are looking for that peace of mind. 

About 24 hours after being tested, patients should receive an email to create an account in their secure portal to view results.  If the test is positive, patients will receive a phone call and instructions on what to do next.

State Representative Maria Horn got tested for COVID-19 yesterday at the weekly test site in Kent.  She said there was a line, but she was in and out in under 10 minutes. 

The weekly testing is being offered free of charge in partnership with the state. There is a required form to fill out with name, address and contact information.

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Danbury School District to host virtual presentation about youth substance abuse

A virtual presentation about youth substance abuse and drug and alcohol concealment is being hosted next month by the Danbury School District.  The Hidden in Plain Sight presentation will help parents understand what to look for in their teen's bedroom.  The virtual event is scheduled for January 28th at 7:00 PM.  Parents can register by emailing Tbudlong@mccaonline.com by January 26th.

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State Police investigate hit & run

A hit-and-run crash on Interstate 84 is under investigation by State Police.  The incident happened early on Christmas Day, around 4:30am, just west of Exit 3.  State Police say a 2019 Honda Civic was sideswiped on the eastbound side by another vehicle, sustaining disabling damage.  The driver was uninjured.  The other vehicle fled the scene.

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Danbury first responders have busier than normal holiday weekend

Danbury first responders experienced a busier than normal holiday weekend, responding to 174 calls between Thursday and Sunday.  That was an increase of 71 calls compared to the same time last year.  Before the storm hit overnight into Christmas morning, firefighters responded to 29 incidents including medical responses, a few odors of gas and a few motor vehicle accidents.  On Christmas Day, crews responded to 73 calls breaking a record for responses in a 24 hour period for TAC 1. Crews handled multiple storm related calls such as flooding, power line and trees down, and alarms along with a kitchen fire, an ambulance fire, and multiple medical calls. 

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New Milford prepares to vaccinate Phase 1b eligible residents

New Milford officials have created a COVID 19 Vaccination Form for seniors to use in scheduling vaccinations.  This is for residents who do not live in Senior Care Facilities.  New Milford Mayor Pete Bass worked with the town's Senior Center Director, IT Director and Health Director to get the infrastructure up and running in advance of Phase 1b rollout.  The State has not given an exact timeframe as to when this part of the vaccination plan goes into effect but Bass says they want to be prepared when they give out the timeframe.  The form can be submitted online, or printed out and mailed or dropped at Town Hall.  Anyone with questions is urged to contact the New Milford Senior Center.  Since Thursday's report from the state since, New Milford recorded another 41 positive COVID-19 cases.

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Live Christmas tree pick up starts in Danbury on Monday

Danbury will begin picking up live Christmas trees on Monday.  Residents must place their live trees at their curbside.  Everything must be removed from the tree in order for it to be collected.  This program is for LIVE trees only. No artificial trees will be picked up.  Danbury's Highway Department will pick-up trees through January 31st, weather permitting.  Residents are encouraged to place their live trees curbside as close to January 4th as possible to assure it's collected while the trucks are in that particular neighborhood.  There is no set schedule for this free program.  Live Christmas trees can also be dropped-off free of charge for Danbury residents, as “wood waste” at Ferris Mulch Products, located on Plumtrees Road. 

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Danbury Library to resume curbside pick up

Danbury Library is set to resume curbside pickup of library materials on Monday.  The service is available on Monday through Friday, from 10AM to 6PM.  Items on hold prior to the Library's closing on December 8th, will be held for patrons until Monday, January 11th. When the requested materials are available, patrons will receive a phone call or email from staff informing them that the requested materials are ready to be picked up.  In addition to curbside pickup, Danbury Library’s vast collection of digital content can be accessed at home on computers, smart phones, or tablets.

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Danbury reports over 200 COVID-19 cases this weekend

The number of positive COVID-19 tests reported over the holiday weekend in Danbury reflected the Christmas Day slowdown.  There were 79 new cases in the City on Christmas Eve day.  Just 8 cases were reported in Danbury on Friday.  On Saturday though, the City recorded 139 new COVID-19 cases.  On Sunday, 71 new cases were reported in Danbury.  The state did not provide updated data on Friday and will not be providing data this coming Friday, New Years Day.

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Sheriff warns of concealed permit text scam

The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office is issuing a scam alert about notification of pistol permits.  Some people have reported receiving a text message with a link telling the recipient to click it to confirm details of a concealed pistol permit certificate.  Sheriff Robert Langley says anyone receiving a message like this should do not reply and should not click the link.  Recipients can take a screenshot and send it to the Sheriff's Department at 845-225-4300.

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Several people hospitalized in serious crash on I-84

Several people were hospitalized following a serious crash on I-84 in Danbury over the weekend.  Firefighters responded to the westbound side between exits 5 and 4 last night on a report of a two-car crash. 

State Police say one driver made multiple lane changes before hitting the rear of a BMW.  Three people were extricated from the BMW, which was on its side facing the opposite direction of traffic.  The roof was up against the concrete barrier.  A fire was also burning in the engine compartment creating a difficult extrication. 

The second vehicle had two occupants, whom were able to self extricate before emergency responders arrived.  Four ambulances were called to the scene along with an additional Medic due to the number of patients who were all transported to Danbury Hospital. 

(Photos: DFD)

All of the injuries were considered non-life threatening.  The driver who struck the BMW sustained a head injury while the passenger had an ankle injury. 

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Change of COVID-19 testing site for Connecticut Institute For Communities in Danbury

The Connecticut Institute For Communities in Danbury will provide COVID-19 testing at a new location starting today.  They will have staff at 12 Boughton Street, the Danbury Community Center.  The location is diagonally across from the former site, and allows staff to stay inside while keeping patients outside during the winter months. The next COVID-19 Testing session is from 1 to 3:30pm, across from the rear parking lot of the Greater Danbury Community Health Center.  There's also testing tomorrow and Wednesday form 1 to 4pm.

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Oxford receives federal grant to monitor schools

The Town of Oxford will receive a $500,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Community Oriented Policing Services. The grant will create a Security Operations Center with three personnel monitoring the four campuses during schools hours. Additionally, the grant will also allow for a mass notification system that will allow schools to lockdown in seconds.  Town officials say students, parents, faculty, community leaders, and first responders will benefit from real-time information in emergency situations.

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Danbury man falls through thin ice while fleeing Bethel Police

A Danbury man fell into a frozen pond while reportedly fleeing Bethel Police on Christmas Day.  Officers responded to the area of Meckauer Circle on Friday after a resident called saying there was a suspicious person trying to enter a car parked in their driveway. 

Police saw a man, later determined to be 18-year old Javon Prior, running away.  He was tracked by a State Police K9. 

Prior tried to run across a pond, but fell through the thin ice.  Officers attempted to enter the water to rescue the man, but were unable to do so because of adverse conditions. They used a nearby item to pull Prior from the water. 

At the scene, police found marijuana, Ecstasy, and items stolen from 5 other area vehicles.  He was charged with burglary, larceny, possession of a controlled substance, and possession of less than a half-ounce of marijuana. He was released on $10,000 bail and is due in Danbury Superior Court on January 5th.

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NY man killed while crossing highway in Southbury Christmas Eve

A New York man was struck and killed by a car while crossing the highway in Southbury on Christmas Eve.  Connecticut State Police say 85-year old Ronald Shaw was driving westbound by exit 16 when he traveled off the roadway into the grass lined median.  Shaw exited his vehicle and walked out onto the highway.  He was struck by a 60-year old West Hartford woman's car as she traveled in the right lane.  Shaw was pronounced dead at the scene. The accident remains under investigation.

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Wilton Police caution of new COVID-19 vaccine scams

Wilton Police are urging residents to be aware of new scams circulating around the COVID-19 vaccine.  As distribution begins, Wilton Police say there are some signs of potential scam to be on the lookout for.  If you are asked to pay out of pocket to get the vaccine, it's likely a scam.  Anyone asked to pay to put their name on a vaccine waiting list or to get early access to a dose should be wary.  Unsolicited emails, phone calls or ads on social media about vaccine administration being available should be treated as a red flag. 

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Putnam County starts COVID vaccine distribution planning

Putnam County has identified representatives that work with under-served populations to serve on a regional task force for vaccine implementation.  County Executive MaryEllen Odell says each neighboring county in the mid-Hudson region will advise the hub, at Westchester Medical Center, on local implementation.  The Putnam County Executive and the Commissioner of Health are working to finalize locations for vaccine points of dispensing and will follow the guidelines for priority and dispensing of the vaccine, according the New York State and CDC requirements.  Odell says information for vaccine distribution to the general public will be shared as it becomes available.

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Danbury health officials answer questions about COVID-19 vaccine

Danbury Health officials are preparing for COVID-19 vaccine distribution to the next phase of recipients.  There have been several questions raised already by the community about the vaccine.  Acting Health Director Kara Prunty says because COVID-19 is still a novel virus, experts are not sure how long an individual’s natural immunity to the virus will last.  People who have had COVID-19 may be advised to receive the vaccine and suggested residents speak with their physician and medical professionals for recommendations. 

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Danbury nonprofit delivers holiday meals to seniors

A Danbury nonprofit has delivered holiday meals to seniors.  The New American Dream Foundation delivered 650 post-Christmas meals on Saturday at 8 housing communities.  The organization has been delivering meals to low-income housing communities since June.  Th latest round of distribution was funded from community donations and $20,000 in grants from the Tufts Health Plan Foundation and the CT Health Foundation.  The meals were made at cost by The Amber Room Colonnade.  CityCenter Danbury plans to partially cover the meals for January, February and March.

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Withholdings to start for Conn.'s new Paid Family Medical Leave program

Connecticut’s new paid family and medical leave law begins on January 1st, but only the first part of the program.  In 2022, residents will be eligible for up to 12 weeks of income replacement during time off for certain reasons.  Starting Friday, half of one percent of wages will be taken out of paychecks.  Paid Leave Authority CEO Andrea Barton Reeves says that's to build up the trust fund.

The benefit will provide up to 12 weeks of income replacement for workers who need to take time off for personal illness or to take care of a family member or loved one. Qualifying reasons include birth, serving as an organ or bone marrow donor and incidence of family violence.  An additional two weeks can be available for complications from pregnancy.

Employers of one or more people are responsible for withholding the deductions and remitting to the state.  Employers must register with the Authority and remit the withholdings at the end of April.  Employers who fail to withhold will be on the hook for any money not withheld from the start of the program.  The statute does not allow employers to go back to employees to collect the money if employers fail to withhold.

The statute does give the Authority to pursue employers that do not withhold, though Barton Reeves says they will do outreach first.  

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New York's commuter railroads meet federal safety deadline

NEW YORK (AP) — New York’s two commuter railroads have met a federally mandated deadline to install an emergency braking system, officials announced Wednesday.

The Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North, both operated by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, have achieved full implementation of positive train control, a computerized system that can safeguard against human or mechanical error.

The two railroads had to install and test the system on thousands of rail cars and locomotives and about 500 miles (804 kilometers) of track that serve Long Island, the northern suburbs of New York City and southern Connecticut up to New Haven.

Using on-board computers, positive train control allows trains to communicate with central dispatching offices to share information on train position and speed. That’s a crucial safety element in a tightly packed region where the two railroads share real estate and infrastructure with Amtrak, New Jersey Transit and several freight railroads.

U.S. freight and commuter railroads were required to have the system in full operation by Dec. 31 or face sanctions and fines from the Federal Railroad Administration.

Federal regulators have said positive train control could have prevented thousands of rail accidents over the last several decades. Those include a 2013 crash in the Bronx that killed four people when the engineer fell asleep at the controls, and a 2015 derailment in Philadelphia that killed eight and injured nearly 200 when an Amtrak train approached a curve at more than twice the speed limit.

Wednesday’s announcement came five days after NJ Transit announced it had received conditional approval from the FRA for its positive train control implementation, contingent on meeting several additional benchmarks by mid-2021.

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Danbury records more COVID-19 cases

On Wednesday, the City of Danbury reported 29 new cases of COVID-19.  There is no waiting list in Danbury for the coronavirus vaccine.  Acting Health Director Kara Prunty says the doses of the COVID-19 vaccine that are paid for through the U-S tax dollars will be administered at no cost. Providers of the vaccines may be able to charge administration fees, but may be able to get a reimbursement fee through the Health Resources and Service Administration’s Provider Relief Fund.  She noted that anticipated dates for the COVID-19 vaccine in Connecticut are subject to change based on supply and demand.

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Redding, Bethel health departments partner on vaccination efforts

The Redding Health Department has partnered with the Bethel Health Department on a COVID-19 vaccination program.   First Selectman Julia Pemberton says the Departments are working together on making this large task happen, once the vaccine is made available to municipalities. Information will be disseminated on how, when, and where the vaccine will be administered. The Redding Community Center will be the likely primary vaccination site used for Redding.

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Ridgefield prepares for COVID-19 vaccine administration

The Ridgefield vaccine team, led by Director of Health Ed Briggs, is working out all logistics to be prepared for when doses become available.  Delivery locations, vaccinators, notification systems and information on how to make appointments are all being established in advance of the rollout.  Connecticut determines the prioritization and timeline for vaccination and will inform the Ridgefield Health Department when doses will be available for each category. A small number of Ridgefield’s frontline workers and first responders have begun receiving the vaccine.  As soon as information is available, the Town Website will be updated with the timeline for delivery as well as instructions on how to schedule an appointment to receive the vaccine.

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HRRA issues reminder about gift wrap and recycling

Housatonic Resources Recovery Authority, the regional municipal solid waste and recycling management organization, has a word of caution this holiday season.  Even though some wrapping paper manufacturers label their paper "100% recyclable"  that's wrong.  In Connecticut, Gift-Wrap is not acceptable.  HRRA asks residents not to put wrapping paper in the recycling bin.  The organization suggests finding an alternative to using gift-wrap such as brown paper bags, which are recyclable.  

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Brookfield Board of Ed sends out survey on name for new elementary school

The Brookfield Board of Education has sent out an informational survey about what to name the new elementary school.  The survey is not a public vote and the Board of Ed says their vote will not necessarily be based on the most popular result. They see the survey as a tool to consider a name when making a final decision.  Results of the survey will be released when the Board votes to chose a name on January 20th.  There are 5 finalists, narrowed down by a committee made up of board members, principals, teachers, parent teacher organization presidents, and two community members.

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Local officials named to Board of CCM

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities has elected a new board and it includes some local leaders.  There are 22 Board of Directors for CCM including Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker, Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi and Roxbury First Selectwoman Barbara Henry.  The group advocates to the state on issues affecting local taxpayers, and shares best practices to support municipal leaders.  CCM will be led this year by Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin.

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Unattended candles ignites wood table, wall

An unattended candle caused a fire in Ridgefield early yesterday morning.  Firefighters responded to a home around 6:30am and found the house filled with smoke.  The candle had been lit late the night before and left unattended.  The candle burned through to the wood table below and ignited it.  The flames then spread up a nearby wall.  The smoke detectors in the residence awoke the occupants who were sleeping in the 2nd floor bedrooms.  No injuries were reported.  Ridgefield Firefighters asked that residents use caution with candles for decorations this holiday season.  They should never be left unattended, not burned near anything that might catch fire, and kept out of the reach of children and pets.

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340 people tested for COVID-19 at pop up event in Kent

Over 340 people were tested for coronavirus at the Kent's drive-through testing site Monday.  The weekly testing is free and available to non-Kent residents, because of a partnership with the State of Connecticut. Testing is first come, first served, with a special lane for first responders. The next test date is December 28th, 3pm to 7.  More information and forms can be found on the Town of Kent website.  During the first test event, 160 COVID-19 tests were administered.

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Danbury Fire Department urges cooking safety this holiday season

More people may be staying home for Christmas this year and trying their hand at family favorites that someone else usually cooks.  Danbury Fire Department is encouraging people to stay alert and focused when in the kitchen.  In 2018, the three leading dates for home structure fires caused by cooking were Thanksgiving, Christmas day and the day before Thanksgiving.

 

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Bethel Ed Foundation fundraiser coming to a close

The Bethel Ed Foundation has been able to raise a significant amount of money to help neighbors in need during this public health emergency.  The organization raised $2,800 to provide food and medication to families dealing with COVID-19.  The fundraiser closes today.

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Newtown Health District planning for COVID-19 vaccination clinics

The Newtown Health District is in the planning stages for COVID-19 vaccination clinics.  Details are still being worked out as municipalities have not been told the amount of vaccine that will be allotted to them and who the vaccine priority groups will be at that time.  Connecticut directs the prioritization and timeline for vaccine rollout and will inform the Newtown Health District when doses will be available for the general/categorized public slated for between late January and May. When those details are finalized, health officials plan to release instructions for scheduling an appointment at a Health District clinic or at other potential locations. While some other communities have put up pages or solicitations to gather information from their residents, Newtown has not done that yet--believing it will be more productive to wait for more specific guidelines and directives.

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20 confirmed COVID-19 cases at elementary school in Ridgefield since Thanksgiving

Ridgefield School District officials have held a virtual information meeting about the COVID-19 cluster at Farmingville Elementary School.  There have been 20 confirmed cases since Thanksgiving week.  Superintendent of Schools Susie Da Silva says several are potentially due to exposures at school.  The Farmingville building is closed and she recommended that anyone who was in the building since December 7th get tested and monitor for symptoms.  According to the tracker on the district website, Ridgefield schools overall have had 81 known cases of COVID-19.  Since August, nearly 1300 students and staff have been placed in quarantine after potential exposures in school, on the bus, and at athletic events.

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Connecticut phasing out income tax on pension, annuity income

Connecticut is phasing out income tax on pension and annuity income for senior taxpayers earning below certain thresholds.  Danbury state Senator Julie Kushner says the percent of their income exempt from taxation will grow from 28 to 42 percent.  She says that savings will only continue to accelerate for those impacted when all income becomes exempt in 2025. The legislative change takes effect January 1st for those earning less than $75,000 in pension and annuity income for single filers, married people filing separately and heads of households, and for those married couples filing jointly and earning less than $100,000.  Kushner hopes this puts money back in the hands of seniors who need it most because they are on fixed incomes.

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Brookfield students to return to in-person learning in Jan.

Brookfield School officials have announced plans for a return to in person learning for some students.  Children in kindergarten through eighth grade will be back in buildings full time starting on January 19th.  Superintendent of Schools John Barile said in an email to families that the high school will reopen in a hybrid model, though parents can chose to stay with remote learning.  Brookfield went to remote learning on November 17th amid a rise in confirmed COVID-19 cases.  Barile says the situation could change in a matter of a few days since the virus continues to spread in the community, so they will continue to monitor the health data trends over the next few weeks. 

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Bethel official urges people to stay close to home for holidays

Over the past two weeks, Bethel experienced 194 new cases, which translates to a positivity rate of about 10%. First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says the timing of new cases seems to indicate a strong connection between Thanksgiving holiday get-togethers. For this reason, the CDC and state health officials are advising Connecticut residents not to travel or have social gatherings with anyone other than the people you live with over the upcoming Christmas and New Year's weekends.  New travel guidance was also issued by Governor Lamont, with exemptions for essential workers and those who have already tested negative within a certain time frame.

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Redding Police investigating burglary, attempted burglaries

Redding Police are investigating attempted and completed overnight burglaries.  Police say someone stole a cash register from Pine Tree Garage on Black Rock Turnpike Monday into Tuesday.  The front window was broken.  Police say the cash register was recovered on nearby Meeker Hill Road yesterday.  Attempted smash-and-grab burglaries that night were made at the Post Office and Redding Wines & Spirits, also on Route 58.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Det. Christina Dias or Officer Peter Trahan at 203-938-3400.

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COVID rate increase in Redding tied to Thanksgiving get togethers

COVID case numbers in Redding increased over Thanksgiving. According to the state Department of Public Health the average positivity rate data from before, during and after Thanksgiving went from 4.5 to 5.6 to 4.9.  The rate per 100,000 residents from before during and after Thanksgiving went from 25.8 to 34.4 to 26.6.  First Selectman Julia Pemberton says these numbers indicate there’s a lesson to be learned with this past Thanksgiving, and everyone needs to play a role in minimizing the spread with the upcoming holidays.

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Property owners in Bethel reminded of snow clearing responsibility

Bethel officials are reminding all property owners that they are responsible for maintaining the sidewalks in front of their property. That includes shoveling snow after a storm. The Town is not responsible for shoveling sidewalks.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says there are still some unsafe sidewalk conditions around town and asked that everyone do their part to keep the community safe.

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Bethel Police, students spreading holiday cheer

Bethel High School students recently took the time to write personal well wishes to Bethel senior center residents.  Over 100 letters will be delivered to spread Holiday cheer.  All of the schools sent letters to residents at Bethel Health Care and Cascades who are isolated from their families during the holidays. While some traditions have been cancelled or modified due to COVID-19, the spirit of the holidays can still be found in Bethel.  The Bethel Police Department didn't host their annual toy drive, but members did help Bethel Social Services with making the holidays special through donations made by officers and department personnel.

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Ridgefield firefighters put out chimney fire

Ridgefield firefighters quickly extinguished a chimney fire in the Rainbow Lake community over the weekend.  The fire was reported Saturday afternoon on Lakeside Drive.  Danbury Fire Tankers responded as well while station coverage was provided by Georgetown fire department.  The blaze was brought under control within half an hour. 

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New Fairfield prepares for vaccine administration

Since Friday, there have been 12 new, confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Fairfield.  The town's Health Director has been working closely with the State, Selectman Khris Hall, and a working group of town staff and medical professionals to ensure that New Fairfield is prepared to vaccinate residents as they become eligible in Phases 1B and 1C.  More details are being worked out about how to register and set up an appointment for vaccination as the state works through the sets of people to be included in each phase.  The CDC recommends Phase 1B of vaccinations include adults over the age of 75, first responders, teachers/school staff, child care providers, food service workers, correctional workers, public transit employees, postal employees, grocery workers and manufacturing workers.  Phase 1C will begin in early spring and will include adults over 65, individuals with underlying health conditions and remaining essential workers. 

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New Milford records new COVID-associated fatalities

New Milford is experiencing an increase in COVID-19 cases.  There have been 31 new cases reported since Friday and another two fatalities reported.  These are the first COVID-associated deaths in New Milford in quite some time.  Mayor Pate Bass says he is working with the state to try and get additional testing set up in New Milford in January.  There was a week of pop up events at the High School and at Pettibone.

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Ridgefield Social Services remind resident of mental health support

Mental health and substance use issues are increasing across the state and nation due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Ridgefield Social Service Department is reminding people that emotional support is available.  To help the community cope with rising numbers of issues related to the pandemic, the Hartford HealthCare Behavioral Health Network offers a free Community Care Center hotline: 1-833-621-0600.  The hotline is open for emotional support during the week, 8am to 5pm, for the public across Connecticut. Clinicians are available to talk by phone and can refer callers to behavioral health services across the state, whether in person or virtually.

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Bethel firefighters extinguish chimney fire

Emergency responders in Bethel are reminding residents to clean their chimneys before the first use of the winter season.  The fire companies in town recently responded to a chimney fire, which was controlled and contained.  Stony Hill Volunteer Fire Company says chimneys should be cleaned and inspected annually by a licensed chimney sweep. Built up creosote on the chimney liner can catch fire and even spread to the inside the home.  A large amount of creosote was removed from the interior of the homeowners chimney.  Bethel Fire & EMS added that only dry seasoned wood should be burned.

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Maskless man involved in confrontation at Danbury bookstore

There was a confrontation caught on video at the Barnes and Noble in Danbury between the manager and a man who refused to wear a mask.  The video was posted by Bethel Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan, on his Facebook page. 

The video does contain some foul language. 

The man argues that there's no law about wearing a mask.  He is asked multiple times to leave before walking out.  The man was charged with creating a public disturbance.  Since Danbury Police were not called to the store over the man's failure to wear a mask, he wasn't charged or fined for the violation.  

Allie-Brennan said in his post that the man was a bully who threaten others who try to enforce the requirement.  He added that people who claim that not wearing a mask is part of their personal freedom are not free to endanger others because of personal choices.

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Danbury schools to distribute meals during winter break

Schools in the Greater Danbury area are preparing for remote learning after winter break.  That includes meal distribution.  In Danbury, free breakfast and lunch will still be provided to families during the December break.  The program is for any student 18 years and younger, including those not enrolled in Danbury Public Schools.  Sodexo, the district’s food service provider, will hand out meals on Wednesday for the next seven days.  Families must sign up online for the pick up at Danbury High School.

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New Fairfield continues trend of COVID-19 increases

Since last Monday, there have been 13 new, confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Fairfield.  The town currently rank 35 out of 169 towns with a case rate of 63.3 per 100,000 population. New Fairfield's test positivity rate is 11.4-percent.  Statewide, the rate is 6.85-percent.  Anyone exhibiting symptoms of COVID-19, or has been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 is urged to get tested and quarantine until results come in.

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Bethel Library closes to public, moves to curbside services only

Due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases around the state and the expected increase over the holidays, Bethel Public Library will be returning to curbside services only. Effective today, the building is closed for browsing and in person services.  The Bag of Books program will still be available for curbside service.  In-person computer appointments will be suspended until after January 6th. During this time staff will be reconfiguring the computer lab to better ensure social distancing and staff will be training on new software and services to better support community needs during the pandemic.  The book drop will remain open and Bethel Library will continue to waive fines until January 6th.

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New Milford Hospital starts vaccinating employees

When Nuvance Health took delivery of COVID-19 vaccines at Danbury Hospital last week, some doses were immediately sent to other hospitals in the health system.  New Milford Hospital distributed its first round of COVID-19 vaccine doses to 60 employees.  The thousands of doses were divided up based on each hospital's size and resources.

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New Milford works to clear storm drains ahead of next storm

New Milford Department of Public Works crews are working on snow removal on the green today. Trucks were also out clearing wider lanes of travel on the roads.  Crews are focusing on getting the catch basins and drainage system opened up this week as the forecast is calling for a good amount of rain Christmas Eve and Day.

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Brookfield officials prepare for vaccine rollout as cases rise in town

In the last two weeks reported, ending, December 12th, Brookfield has had 175 new cases of coronavirus reported. That moves the rate per 100,000 residents to 73.5 up from last week’s 67.6. Positivity rate in Brookfield is now 10.2 percent. 

One more death has been reported, bringing the total to 14 residents lost to the virus. 

Phase I of the rollout of the vaccine has started and is being administered to health care workers, first responders and long term care facilities. The State will shortly issue guidance on the rollout for other residents.  Brookfield officials anticipate the earliest they will be available to the general public will be at the end of January. To be prepared, the town is gathering the names and contact details of those residents who are age 65 or older, immuno-compromised. 

Healthcare workers offering to assist in vaccine administration are also asked to fill out a form and submit it to the town.  The form is available on the town website.

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Easton Police Officer rescues man, dog from icy pond

An Easton police officer is being credited for saving a man and his dog who fell through the ice on a pond near the Helen Keller Middle School Friday night.  Officer Anthony Telesco was flagged down by a man who told him his dog had fell through the ice, and that he tried to reach the dog but went into the water too.  Easton Fire Department made an ice rescue.  Telesco, who went in up to his chest, was in minor distress from the freezing temperature when he left the pond. The 32-year old was transported to Bridgeport Hospital for treatment of cold water exposure. He was later released in good condition.

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Brookfield firefighters rescue injured sledder at High School

Firefighters and paramedics responded to Brookfield High School yesterday afternoon on a report of a youth injured in a sledding accident.  Members removed one injured youth from the “back hill” of the rear of BHS utilizing Ranger 1. The patient was in stable condition and transported to Danbury Hospital for evaluation. 

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New Milford schools switch to remote learning this week

New Milford Schools will be on remote learning to start off the week.  Interim Superintendent Alisha DiCorpo shared a message on Friday that schools would be open in the hybrid model Monday and Tuesday, but that was based on COVID-19 data at the time.  Now the schools will be on remote learning today and tomorrow. 

She says the additional two days of remote instruction, as a mitigation strategy, will limit the number of students and staff who potentially could become close contacts of cases so near to the upcoming holiday.  She hopes this will also ensure adequate staffing levels in all schools.

The Remote Learning mode, over the two day period, will bring continuity of instruction leading up to the holiday break and DiCorpo hopes will provide a smooth transition for the five remote days beyond break.

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160 tests administered during first weekly COVID-19 test session in Kent

160 COVID-19 tests were administered at the first pop up test event in Kent, which was run by the state.  First Selectman Jean Speck thanked everyone who made the day run smoothly including the health care workers, CERT volunteers and Kent's emergency management team.  Free testing is now being offered weekly in Kent, on Mondays, in order to fill a gap in testing in the northwest corner.  Information on how to access test results can be found on the Town of Kent's website.

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Bethel Social Services supporting families in need during quarantine

Bethel residents who are COVID-19 positive or asked to quarantine as direct contacts are not only challenged by the inability to leave their homes, but oftentimes lose their wages due to missed work. The First Selectman and Superintendent of Schools say this is most true to families that are struggling the most to meet their basic needs, including access to food and medication. 

Because of community transmission, the Bethel Department of Social Services in conjunction with the Department of Public Health have been supporting these families by purchasing food and medication to get them through these tough times, but their limited funding is running out.  The Bethel Ed Foundation is accepting donations, with all proceeds going directly to families in need. 

Town officials are calling on community members who have the means to donate, to do so.  The funds will be distributed through the Department of Social Services.

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Danbury officials dispute resident concerns about regional homeless sheltering

Danbury City Council members have received a few emails from residents about the homeless population being sheltered at the Super 8 motel on Lake Avenue.  During the Council meeting earlier this month, then-Mayor Mark Boughton said he's also seen the email about 500 emergency calls to the hotel.  He says it's been proven wrong.   The email alleges that was for police and medical response. 

Boughton urged Councilmembers to be careful with what they hear.  Some people feel this will create a regional center, but Boughton says the City was providing 70 beds for the homeless at 4 shelters.

There are 80 beds approved for use at the motel, but with two people per room and some rooms set aside for COVID compliance and isolation. 

Danbury is not part of the negotiations between the Super 8 motel and Pacific House, a non-profit organization that provides wrap-around services for the homeless.  But Boughton supports the proposal.  He says it will be better to have one shelter than four.  He also notes that there will be better access to services and Pacific House will be able to bring this populations more resources than the City ever could.  Having outside organizations provide services and housing is the model now being implemented across the country.

44 homeless individuals are currently being sheltered at the motel.  59 have been housed since March.  Everyone on the wait list has been contacted and is in the process of being brought to the motel.

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Special COIVD-19 testing in Ridgefield for Farmingville School community

Special COVID-19 testing is being set up in Ridgefield today for Farmingville Elementary School students and staff.  There's been at least 10 cases in recent days.  Testing will be set up this afternoon at Yanity Gym and families were sent a link to sign up for a time slot.  A question and answer session on the COVID-19 cluster at Farmingville has been rescheduled for 7pm this evening via Google Meet.  Anyone who has been in the Farmingville building since December 7th is urged to be watchful for symptoms and get tested for COVID-19. All Ridgefield schools are on remote learning this week, for the last three days before winter vacation.

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Danbury Hospital has COVID hotline to ease strain on ER phones

Danbury Hospital has set up a COVID-19 Community Hotline to address questions and concerns from the community. The hotline is for people concerned about symptoms they may have.  It was set up to mitigate the high-volume call-intake of emergency departments and medical practices.  The number is 888-667-9262 and it's staffed 7 days a week, from 8am to 6pm.  Other inquiries can be answered on the hospital’s website.

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Danbury business accuses of PURA of rescinding projects, giving to disqualified companies

Danbury-based FuelCell Energy says state regulators have improperly rescinded awards for three projects previously selected in the Shared Clean Energy Facility program.  The company says that is putting high tech manufacturing job growth at risk.

The rescinded awards were given to solar development projects previously ordered to be disqualified by the Public Utility Regulatory Authority.  FuelCell Energy CEO Jason Few says this shows that PURA's process lacks integrity and called on the agency to honor the original awards.  

Danbury Representative David Arconti, chair of the legislature's Energy Committee, say FuelCell is committed to the state and it's important that agencies run fair and competitive auctions that give them the opportunity to succeed.

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Local lawmaker asks for input on help for business community

Bars, restaurants and small businesses are some of the hardest hit since the pandemic.  Kent Representative Maria Horn hopes there will be a federal relief package worked out with money for small businesses, but in the meantime, she says she's open to other ideas.  Horn has asked for constituents input and interest in participating in a zoom brainstorming session.  She asked that people email her Maria.Horn@cga.ct.gov and put small business on the subject line.

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Emergency responders, plows kept busy in snow storm

Danbury's new Mayor stopped by his old stomping grounds yesterday at the Public Works building.  Joe Cavo went to see how plow crews were holding up after working all night to clear the roads. Cavo started his career in Danbury with the DPW, before joining the Fire Department. 

Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company responded to several calls through the snowstorm and just afterward.  They had to twice utilize “Ranger 1”, a UTV to remove patients from their homes due to uncleared driveways.  They also responded to several accidents. 

The Town of New Milford reported the highest snow totals in the state.  Mayor Pete Bass touted the job done by the Public Works Department in clearing the roads.  New Milford has about 180 miles of paved and 27 miles of gravel roads in town that the department is responsible for plowing. 

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Putnam County Sheriff Department hosts collection drives Saturday

The Putnam County Sheriff Department is hosting a collection drive this weekend. 

They'll be in the agency's parking lot on Saturday, starting at 11am, collecting food, toys, clothing, toiletries, and selling baked goods from small businesses. Representatives from the Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Marine Corps, and Sheriff’s Department will be collecting goods for Veterans and families in need in Putnam County.

All cash proceeds and monetary donations will be presented to the family of Mike Schmidt, who was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in 2017.  Prior to joining the Sheriff's Department, he was a civilian dispatcher for the Carmel Police Department.

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Danbury Labor Market Area adds jobs in November

Only two of the six Labor Market Areas in Connecticut, seasonally adjusted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, showed employment gains in November, while four declined.  The Danbury area added 800 jobs while the Hartford area led all regional labor markets in November, adding 2,500 positions.  The Danbury Labor Market Area was the only one of the 6 to lose jobs in October, down 500 jobs in the that Bureau of Labor Statistics report.

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Draft report for approval of proposed Shake Shack changes being drawn up

While no changes are proposed to the Longhorn Steakhouse portion of an application before the Danbury Planning Commission, it is tied to a restaurant that's requested approval of site plan changes.  The previously approved Shake Shack wants to be allowed to incorporate a drive thru pick up window. 

With the addition of the pick up lane, Shake Shack qualifies as a fast food restaurant under City statute and requires a special exception approval from the Commission.  Attorney Tom Beecher says minor other changes are being made.  Seating has been increased by 4 while 9 parking spots were eliminated.  15 parking spaces in main parking field between the two restaurants will be eliminated, but there will still be over 100 spaces available.  The dumpsters are also being moved to create a travel lane for the window. 

The "Shack Tracks" mobile app pick up lane is only for customers who have placed an order and received a notification that it's ready. 

The Commission left the public hearing open as they are waiting on the traffic division report.  At a virtual meeting this week, the Commission then closed the hearing and asked staff to prepare a Draft Resolution of Approval for the next meeting.

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Greater Danbury continues to dig out from about a foot of snow

Greater Danbury continues to dig out from about a foot of snow.  Parking bans continue in Danbury and New Milford today as plows do another round of clearing.  Public Works officials are reminding property owners to shovel the sidewalks in front of their homes and businesses.  They cautioned pedestrians to walk slowly as the freezing temperatures may have caused a layer of black ice to form on pavement that was scraped down to the blacktop.

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New Milford to move to remote learning for a week after Christmas break

New Milford School Interim Superintendent Alisha DiCorpo has made an announcement about school after Christmas break.  Data showed that the planned week of remote learning following Thanksgiving was successful as a mitigation strategy for COVID-19 infections.  The district will be placed on remote learning for the period of January 4th through 8th, with Cohort A students returning in person on January 11th.

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Water Witch firefighters hold hydrant clearing contest

Water Witch Hose Fire Company of New Milford has kicked off a contest called Hydrant Heros.  Any resident who digs out the nearest hydrant, with a 3-foot radius and all the way to the street, and then sends a picture to the fire company can enter.  After each big storm, Water Witch will award someone with a gift card from a local business.  This storm is sponsored by the new butcher shop coming to Railroad Street, called The Butcher Block. 

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Newtown officials warn of bitter overnight cold

Connecticut is forecast to experience bitter cold overnight wind chill temperatures tonight and tomorrow night.  Newtown’s First Selectman and the Emergency Management Office urge residents to be prepared to ensure personal safety. Also, take action to protect pets.  The Newtown Transfer Station will be closed today.  Curbside Recycling will also be delayed a day.  If normal pick up is Thursday, pick up will be Friday.  If it is Friday, pick up will be Saturday.

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New Mayor sworn in for City of Danbury

Danbury City Council President Joe Cavo was sworn in as Mayor yesterday afternoon. Mark Boughton submitted his resignation as he gets set to become the state Department of Revenue Services Commissioner on Friday.

Cavo chose to take the oath of office in private due to COVID-19 gathering restrictions.  He says while it's an honor of a lifetime to become Mayor, he can't ask that people not gather with their extended families this holiday season while inviting a crowd to City Hall.

  

(Photo Courtsey City of Danbury)

Mayor Cavo, his wife Liz Cavo, Les Pinter from Corporation Counsel

The Danbury Republican Town Committee will nominate a new 3rd Ward Councilman and the Council will elect a new President from among their members.

Cavo began his career in Danbury with the Public Works Department.  He then worked in the Fire Department.  For the past 14 years Cavo has served as City Council President.  He believes his background and experience will help him over the course of the next year, navigating snow storms, COVID-19 response and other emergencies.

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Nuvance Health takes delivery of first COVID-19 vaccines at Danbury Hospital

Nuvance Health has taken the hospital system's first delivery of Pfizer's COVID-19 vaccine.  Interim Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jeff Nicastro says they're excited that Danbury Hospital received a couple thousand doses.  They are following FDA and manufacturer guidelines for storage, which includes an ultra-cold freezer, and state distribution guidelines for disbursing vaccines throughout the health system.

(Photo Courtesy: Nuvance Health)

Dr. Guillermo Ballarino, pulmonary intensivist, was the first to get the COVID-19 vaccine at Danbury Hospital.  Dr. Ballarino has been on the frontlines caring for patients since Danbury Hospital’s first COVID-19 patient in March.

This week, vaccines will be disbursed from Danbury Hospital to New Milford, Norwalk , and Sharon Hospitals. 

(Back, Left to Right) Dr. Jeff Nicastro, Interim Chief Medical Officer, SVP & System Chair, Surgical Services; Sharon Adams, President, Danbury/New Milford Hospitals; Robin Ashley, Manager, Employee Health, Danbury/New Milford/Norwalk Hospitals; Dr. John M. Murphy, President, CEO, Nuvance Health

(Front Left to Right) Laurie Brentlinger, AVP Infection Control & Prevention, Dr. Paul Nee, Infectious Disease, Danbury/New Milford Hospitals

Nuvance plans to administer the vaccine first to those who want them, and in groups based on risk of exposure because limited doses are currently available. More vaccines are expected to be available in early 2021.

Vaccine appointments are not being scheduled for patients at this time and Nuvance is not creating wait lists.

WCSU nursing students are volunteering to administer vaccines at Nuvance Health clinics

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Bethel Police urge caution for drivers who have to be on the roads

Bethel Police are calling on residents who do have to venture out today to allow extra travel time. Snow plows will be working to clear lanes of travel into the afternoon and this may cause necessary delays. Drivers are asked to follow the posted speed limits or reduce speeds to increase reaction time.  Any sudden accelerating or slowing can cause your vehicle to skid. Should you get stuck in the snow, rock your vehicle slowly back and forth to dislodge and snow that has become compacted. In case of an emergency, Bethel Police say a rubber floor mat may also help you escape a slippery situation

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New Milford launches new tool to report road hazards

New Milford Public Works has a new communication tool available to help keep roads and other Public areas safe and in good shape.  There's an app called SeeClickFix and a website located at FixNewMilford.com, where residents can report and track the status of requests when it comes to potholes, downed trees and hazardous road conditions. 

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Ridgefield COVID-19 Task Force webinar tonight

A Ridgefield COVID-19 Task Force webinar will be held tonight.  First Selectman Rudy Marconi says all residents can sign up to attend the meeting and hear first hand about the current status of Ridgefield.  Presentations will be made by Task Force members, which include Marconi, scientists, doctors, Town Health Director Ed Briggs, and School Superintendent Susie Da Silva.  An update on vaccines will be provided by Stamford Health infectious disease doctor Dr. Maher Madhoun.  Questions may be sent in advance or during the presentation to: pio@ridgefieldct.org.  Once residents register for the webinar, they'll be sent a confirmation email containing information about joining the Zoom call.

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Danbury City Council President Joe Cavo sworn in as Mayor

Danbury City Council President Joe Cavo was sworn in as Mayor this afternoon. Mark Boughton submitted his resignation as he gets set to become the state Department of Revenue Services Commissioner on Friday. The Danbury Republican Town Committee will nominate a new 3rd Ward Councilman and the Council will elect a new President from among their members.

Cavo chose to take the oath of office in private due to COVID-19 gathering restrictions.  He says while it's an honor of a lifetime to become Mayor, he can't ask that people not gather with their extended families this holiday season while inviting a crowd to City Hall.  

Cavo began his career in Danbury with the Public Works Department.  He then worked in the Fire Department.  For the past 14 years Cavo has served as City Council President.  He believes his background and experience will help him over the course of the next year, navigating snow storms, COVID-19 response and other emergencies.

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New Milford declares snow emergency, parking ban

New Milford's Director of Public Works has declared a snow emergency.  There's a street parking ban in effect from 5pm today through 6am Friday.  Alternate parking is available in the posted lot behind New Milford Town Hall, the Patriot's Way lot west of the railroad tracks and the Richmond Center lot along the rear fence.

 

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CIFC cancels COVID testing Thursday

Connecticut Institute For Communities in Danbury will have their regular COVID-19 testing hours today at their 120 Main Street location.  Due to the incoming winter storm, they've called off tomorrow's test event as the Greater Danbury Community Health Center building will be closed.  Testing is scheduled on Friday from 10am to noon.

 

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New Milford Health Director retiring

The New Milford Health Director will be retiring in the new year and the town is seeking a replacement.  Michael Crespan’s final day is set for February 12th, after more than 3 decades on the job.  He was hired by the New Milford Department of Health in 1988.  Crespan oversees chronic disease services, emergency preparedness, food service licensing, sanitary and housing codes and other related functions.

 

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Man arrested for alleged shoplifting incident, police pursuit

A man has been arrested for an alleged shoplifting incident in Southbury this fall, which led to a pursuit and the officer nearly being struck by the suspect's car.  29-year old William McBride was charged Thursday with larceny, engaging police in pursuit, illegal operation of a motor vehicle under suspension, interfering with an officer/resisting arrest, reckless driving, and reckless endangerment.  THe incident started at Stop & Shop in the Southbury Plaza on September 10th.  An officer stopped McBride as he drove away, but the man allegedly sped back in reverse before nearly running over the officer's foot.  Another officer was led in pursuit onto Route 6 and I-84, where McBride reportedly reached 95 mph.  The Newstimes reports that he nearly collided with several motor vehicles, making multiple traffic violations before the chase was called off.  Police in Oxford were then led in pursuit and allegedly struck a police cruiser.  Police ran the vehicle’s license plate number and determined that the vehicle was registered to a Hamden woman who said McBride had borrowed her car to pick up a check.

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Monroe Police warn of spoofing phone scam

A Monroe resident reported getting a call this weekend, purportedly from the "Social Security Administration" and followed by one that spoofed the police department's information.  The resident was instructed to send gift cards in a specified amount to cover a debit he had with social security. The call was ended with minimal additional information being exchanged.  This was followed by a second call showing the ID Monroe Police Department and the agency's number.  That caller identified himself as an Officer and advised the resident to send the gift cards. A family member heard what had taken place and called Monroe Police to verify the information, which was false.  Department officials say scam artists realize many people no longer answer calls from phone numbers with unfamiliar area codes or unknown names and spoofing technology allows them to trick caller ID into displaying false information.

 

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Ridgefield increases appointment slots for COVID-19 testing

Ridgefield is currently reporting 9 new COVID-19 cases as of Monday, with ages ranging from under one to 100. The majority of the cases fall in the 40-50 age range.  After last week’s town test site roll out, the Yanity Gym site has increased its test appointments. Residents can find information on testing on the town website, under the red COVID banner and the COVID test icon.  First Selectman Rudy Marconi urges residents to continue to avoid group gatherings and to follow protocol to stop the spread.  He notes that some communities experienced huge leaps in numbers after Thanksgiving which their officials say is because they ignored the warnings of group gatherings.  He acknowledged that with the holidays, it's a tough time to ask, but if Ridgefield can hang in over the next couple of months, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

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Feeding Our Neighbors Challenge nears goal

The Feeding Our Neighbors Challenge to help Danbury-area food pantries is less than $10,000 from its $100,000 goal.  The fundraiser was launched in response to comedian John Oliver's donation to the Connecticut Food Bank.  United Way President Isabel Almeida says they're still seeing a great need for food, especially as the holidays put more demands on family budgets.  Three local financial institutions put up $45,000 in seed money for the challenge, which was bolstered by a mini-challenge resulting in Mayor Mark Boughton running down West Street in a chicken suit.  All funds raised through the Feeding Our Neighbors Challenge will benefit 15 food pantries that are members of the Danbury Food Collaborative.

 

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Bethel Police offer winter driving reminders

Bethel Police Department has some annual reminders ahead of the first major snowstorm to hit this area in a while.  Drivers are asked to check tires for proper tread depth and air pressure, or consider switching to all season or snow tires.  They say many newer vehicles are sold with summer performance tires which don't perform well in snow.  Motorists are also asked to inspect windshield wiper blades. Over time, blades can crack and become rigid which reduces their effectiveness.  People should consider keeping a small winter kit in the trunk that contains items such as salt, sand, a blanket, and a small shovel.  Lastly, Bethel Police issued a reminder so they don't have to stop drivers and issue tickets--Clear all snow and ice from windshields and mirrors to ensure maximum visibility, but also from the body of the car to prevent large pieces from coming loose and obstructing the view of other drivers. 

 

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Putnam County leaders monitoring storm

Putnam County Officials are monitoring the large and potentially dangerous winter storm that is predicted to move into the area this afternoon.  County Executive MaryEllen Odell say the amount of snow and the gusty winds will make travel extremely dangerous.  She called on residents to be prepared with an adequate amount of food, water and non-perishables; a supply of essential medications; a battery powered radio; flashlights; and charged cell phones.  Odell says this storm combined with the pandemic is going to create challenges, but she is prepared to activate the Incident Command Team should they need to.

 

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New Fairfield official urges residents to prepare for storm

There is the potential for a significant winter storm to impact the area tonight through tomorrow.  New Fairfield First Selectman Pat Del Monaco says the volume of snow might not be the only issue to contend with, but also winds up to 45 mph possible.  She called on residents to prepare for the possibility of a prolonged power outage and cold temperatures.  Due to the pandemic, New Fairfield will not be able to provide extensive sheltering facilities, showers or meals.  To ensure that roads get plowed, parked cars should be moved off of the roads before the storm starts in order to accommodate the plows.  A sand salt mixture is available to New Fairfield residents at no charge at the DOC, though residents must bring their own bucket and shovel.  The DOC will be open from 8am to 3:45pm.

 

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Greater Danbury area towns prep for blizzard

New Milford Department of Public Works will be out in force today preparing for the blizzard.  Two trucks were out salting ice spots from the morning freeze and then prepping for the next storm.  Both brine tucks are applying brine to all New Milford roads.

With significant snowfall expected Wednesday into Thursday, Bethel firefighters are asking that residents help them out.  Once the storm stops and it's safe to do so, they ask that residents and business owners shovel around fire hydrants on their property.  Firefighters suggest a radius of at least 4 feet.  Bethel Fire & EMS says an exposed fire hydrant is a functioning fire hydrant and can save precious minutes when needed in an emergency.

The storm could produce high snow totals and winds.  Southbury Fire Department urged residents to plan ahead and get fuel for generators and snow removal equipment. 

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Police detail Friday's chain reaction crashes on Route 7

Police have released more detail about the Friday night crashes that sent 7 people to the hospital.  Two chain reaction accidents happened on Route 7 near the Brookfield-Danbury line. 

A car stopped in the right lane due to traffic, with two vehicles behind it.  59-year old Ze Teixeira, of Danbury, struck the rear of that last car with his pick up truck and pushed it forward into the other two.  All four vehicles were towed to the scene.  Five people sustained minor injuries.  Teixeira was charged with following too closely. 

In a separate crash, 56-year-old Fabio Cuccia rear-ended an SUV that slowed for traffic, pushing it into the next lane, which it sideswiped a car driven by a 33-year-old Brookfield man.  The Cortlandt Manor, New York man was charged for following too closely.  He and the 68-year old in the middle vehicle were transported to the hospital.

All of the vehicles involved had to be towed from the scenes.

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Man approached girl in Bethel, offered ride

An investigation is underway in Bethel after a girl was approached by a stranger and offered a ride.  Bethel Police received a call yesterday morning about a white male stopping to ask a young girl, who was running to catch the school bus, if she wanted a ride.  The incident happened shortly after 8am in the area of Greenwood Avenue and Andrews Street, and was witnessed by the girl's mother.  The car was described as an older model gold 2 door Saturn. No license plate was obtained.  The man was described as older, bald, and white.  Anyone who has any information is asked to contact Officer Morris at 203-744-7900.

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Brewster man convicted for rape, child welfare endangerment

A Brewster man has been convicted on rape and child welfare endangerment charges.  The Putnam County District Attorney's Office says 45-year-old Martiliano Ramos-Miguel was sentenced on Friday to 14 years in state prison followed by 10 years post release supervision and sex offender registration.  Chief Assistant District Attorney Chana Krauss who prosecuted the case said “the victims’ voices were heard, and their abuser was brought to justice. She added that this plea and sentence will keep this predator in jail for many years where he cannot cause any more harm. DA Robert Tendy said “this was a tough case to work on, saying the abuse was heartbreaking.

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Pedestrian struck and injured in Danbury

A pedestrian was struck and injured in Danbury Thursday afternoon.  Danbury POlice received a call about a collision in the area of West Wooster Street and Pleasant Street shortly before 4pm.  An investigation determined that 72-year old James McClure of Bethel, was headed west on West Wooster when his car struck 62-year old John Ponseigo of Danbury, who was walking in the roadway.  The pedestrian was transported to Danbury Hospital where he is being treated for injuries sustained in the collision.  The accident is under investigation.  Any witness is asked to contact Officer Matthew Malone at (203) 797-2157.

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Nuvance to take delivery of COVID vaccine this week

Nuvance Health expects to receive its first batch of COVID-19 vaccine this week.  Spokeswoman Amy Forni says they don't have an exact time, but are prepared for their arrival for Danbury, Norwalk, New Milford and Sharon hospitals.  State officials say more than 19-hundred vaccines are expected at Danbury Hospital this week to be distributed across the Nuvance system.  The Pfizer vaccine must be kept in an ultra cold freezer and staff is expected to be vaccinated at least 24 hours after the doses arrive.  The Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine for emergency use on Friday night.  Moderna must still go through the approval process.

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Senator seeks VA facility probe amid whistleblower claims

Connecticut U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal said Tuesday he’s seeking an investigation by the Veterans’ Administration Office of the Inspector General into alleged unsafe working conditions at the West Haven VA hospital, where two workers were killed last month by the rapid release of hot water vapor during maintenance work on the facility’s steam system.

The Democrat told reporters he recently received 75 pages of documents from two whistleblowers that include “powerful evidence that complaints of unsafe conditions were either disregarded or dismissed,” including more than one complaint raised by one of the men who died in the Nov. 13 accident.

“These whistleblower complaints are so deeply concerning and searing as potential evidence of a failure to respond to legitimate complaints about unsafe work,” Blumenthal said. “I am heartbroken that such unsafe working conditions may have contributed to the explosion that caused the deaths of these two dedicated workers.”

The documents, which have been provided to the inspector general’s office, include complaints made by multiple VA employees and others, Blumenthal said. One email was from VA maintenance worker Euel Sims, a 60-year-old Navy veteran who was killed. Blumenthal said the documents include evidence that Sims raised more than one complaint about safety problems with his superiors.

Joseph O’Donnell, a 36-year-old private contractor from Danbury, was also killed in the steam pipe accident. Three other workers were injured, officials said.

Pamela Redmond, public affairs officer for the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, said hospital officials were unable to comment on Blumenthal’s request for an investigation or the whistleblowers’ accusations, due to an ongoing investigation.

“Our prayers are with the families of the victims of this explosion,” she said in an email. “We are cooperating fully with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which is leading this investigation, and remain committed to ensuring we provide a safe environment for our staff and patients.”

Alfred Montoya Jr., director of the VA Connecticut Healthcare System, previously said Sims and O’Donnell were in the basement of a small outer building and had just finished routine maintenance on a leaky pipe when they died. He said the accident happened as the pipe was being refilled with steam.

In releasing preliminary findings of the investigation, state police said the episode initially described as an explosion was a “pressure event” within the steam system.

“This event caused super-heated water vapor to rapidly fill the room and building,” police said. “The two occupants working on the system were not able to evacuate the room and suffered fatal injuries. There was no apparent criminal aspect.”

The building where the men were killed houses the hospital’s labor shops, such as carpentry and plumbing, a hospital spokesperson said.

Both Blumenthal and U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, a fellow Democrat, have called on the federal government to approve major renovations at the aging hospital. It was originally built in the 1950s and underwent a renovation in the 1990s.

Blumenthal said he wants the VA’s inspector general to look into whether “inadequate resources provided to the facility” contributed to the alleged unsafe working conditions. He said the whistleblower complaints are “an alarm call for reconstructing” the facility.

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Danbury Republican Town Committee to nominate new 3rd ward councilman

The Danbury Republican Town Committee will need to nominate someone to take City Councilman Joe Cavo’s place representing the 3rd ward.  The City Council must then authorize the nomination.  They'll also appoint a new president, from among the Council majority. 

Cavo will be sworn in as Mayor on Thursday night, though the impending snow storm could bump that up to Wednesday.  Mark Boughton will submit his resignation shortly before the swearing in.  Boughton is starting as State Department of Revenue Services Commissioner on Friday. 

Cavo will serve as Mayor until the municipal election next November.  He has not said if he'll run for a full term in 2021.  

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Newtown First Selectman marks 12/14 anniversary in weekly reading event

The, Ana Grace Project, started by a Sandy Hook family in honor of their daughter, partnered with the CCSU Literacy Center for Sunday readings.  Newtown First Selectman Dan Rosenthal was a mystery reader in March, and has posted a weekly video on Facebook since then.  The first book he read was illustrated by Steven Kellogg, a longtime Newtown resident.  Last night, he chose a book called Snowflakes Fall.  Kellogg's somber story celebrating the uniqueness of children.

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Sandy Hook-based Chose Love adapts mission amid pandemic

The Chose Love organization, started by Scarlett Lewis in honor of her son Jesse, has made a pivot during the pandemic.  Lewis recently launched a special reintegration unit to help educators and students come back to school after a long absence, and readjust.  She says this helps them get back to baseline and become present so they can learn. 

Chose Love for Schools also doubled down on trauma information and post-traumatic growth. Lewis says everyone is in a state of grief, over a sense of normal, over connections and an uncertain future.

Her group has created new programs that teach life skills for parents, students and others to grow through this time and rise to the occasion. 

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Newtown marks 8th anniversary of shootings at Sandy Hook School

The Town of Newtown has traditionally marked the anniversary of the shootings at Sandy Hook School with a moment of silence.  First Selectmen over the years have said that there's different grief for different groups in the community for a town-wide observance wouldn't be fitting. This year's traditional interfaith service will be live streamed at 7pm on the Newtown Congregational Church Facebook page.

St. Rose Lima Church pastor Monsignor Robert Weiss, who had the challenge of presiding over many of the funerals 8 years ago, has suggested to again remember those who lost their lives at Sandy Hook School in ways that are quiet, personal and respectful.  Over the years the themes have centered on kindness, love and service to others.

Newtown state Senator Tony Hwang has called on area residents to pause for a few moments today to remember those students and staff who were killed at Sandy Hook School 8 years ago.  He says the community continues to heal from the emotionally traumatic impact of that unspeakable event and notes that much good is being done in honor of those killed that day.

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Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission details timeline for referendum

Newtown residents could vote on the proposed Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial during the budget referendum in April.  If approved, the project could be completed in little over a year, in time to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the shooting in 2022.  The project would be located on land near the new Sandy Hook School.  Designs include a “sacred sycamore” in a reflecting pool, encircled by the names of the 20 children and 6 educators killed 8 years ago.

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Local fire departments escort Santa around towns

Sherman Volunteer Fire Department handed out 110 candy canes with Santa yesterday.   Instead of the traditional visits that happen, firefighters took Santa on a ride through town.  Firefighters say everyone did a great job of respecting social distancing and were wearing masks.  

Stony Hill Volunteer Fire Company annual Santa Run this year will be on Saturday, but it’ll be different this year and contact free.  Santa will be on the fire engine making his rounds through the Stony Hill district, waving and spreading holiday cheer, but he will not be handing out candy canes or getting out to greet families.

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Danbury City Council President to be sworn in as Mayor Thursday

Danbury City Council President Joe Cavo will be sworn in as the City's next Mayor on Thursday night.  This new role follows the announcement from current Mayor Mark Boughton that he would be resigning before Friday in order to become the state's next Commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services. 

Cavo has served on the City Council since 2003.  He recently retired from the Danbury Fire Department. 

In order to ease the transition, Boughton says he'll kind of split his time for the first couple of weeks.  He won't be in City Hall, but will make himself available for consultation when it comes to projects currently underway.  That includes the planned Career Academy at the old Matrix Site, infrastructure improvements to the sewer plant and the pandemic. 

Boughton and Cavo have started discussing economic plans, vaccine rollout and enforcement of the state's COVID regulations.  When it comes to the budget, Boughton and the City's Finance Director had started work on plans before he made this decision.  But at the end of the day, Boughton says Cavo will be Mayor and it will be up to him to make the decisions. 

Department heads have already started submitting their financial requests.

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Kent to host weekly COVID-91 testing for northwest corner

The Town of Kent has been selected as a weekly drive-thru COVID-19 test site sponsored by the State of Connecticut.  Beginning today, tests will be conducted weekly from 3pm to 7pm at the Kent Transfer Station on Maple Street.  Testing is free of charge and open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. No insurance or documentation is needed.  Results will be available through an online portal in about 48 hours, depending on lab capacity.  First Selectman Jean Speck says there has been a testing desert in the northwest corner.  A separate first-responder lane will be provided, around the corner from the firehouse.  Testing will be conducted every Monday afternoon.

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Newtown retirement community, 14 others targeted by suit over alleged ADA violations

A retirement community in Newtown is among 15 targeted by a U.S. Justice Department lawsuit over alleged Fair Housing Act and ADA violations.  The lawsuit was filed against J. Randolph Parry Architects and eight owners of multifamily properties designed by the architectural firm.  The Newtown facility listed in the suit is Church Hill Village.  The architectural firm is accused of failing to design and construct housing units and related facilities to make them accessible to people with disabilities. The lawsuit seeks compliance with the FHA and ADA, monetary damages to persons harmed by the lack of accessibility and civil penalties to the United States to vindicate the public interest.

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Brookfield prepares for Phase 1b of COVID-19 vaccinations

Phase I of the rollout of the COVID-19 vaccine will cover Health Care workers, First responders and nursing home and assisted living residents.

To be as prepared as possible, Brookfield officials are asking that those people over 65 or who are immuno-compromised notify the town health department with name, address, date of birth, telephone number and an email address.  Brookfield will have a dedicated phone number and email address for this early this week.  Town officials will then advise residents if they qualify and how to obtain a vaccination.  All information provided will be kept confidential. 

The State will shortly issue guidance on the rollout to residents, with more details coming in the next two weeks. 

The town is still looking for retired nurses or other healthcare workers who have maintained their licenses to assist our vaccination efforts.

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10 people injured in 7-car crash in Brookfield

10 people were injured in a 7-car crash in Brookfield on Friday night.  Danbury firefighters had just cleared an accident from northbound on Route 7, when Brookfield was dispatched southbound in the area of the exit 11 off ramp.  The two chiefs established a unified command post and requested additional resources from both departments.  A total of 12 patients were evaluated on scene and 10 were transported to Danbury Hospital with non life threatening injuries. The accident was reported shortly after 5pm and the scene was cleared by 6:30.  This is the third multi-patient accident in that area in the last several weeks.  Fire officials urged drivers to travel safely and to wear their seatbelts.

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Bethel Police say car break-in suspect likely has experience with crime

The Bethel Police Department is asking for the public's help in solving a car break in.  On Wednesday afternoon, a vehicle was burglarized in the Meckauer Park parking lot.  The incident happened between 1:15pm and 1:45.  A purse was stolen, despite having been hidden from view.  After examining the vehicle, Police say t appeared that the suspect or suspects held some technical skill and experience with executing such crimes. The Bethel Police Department is requesting that any person who may have been at the park this past Wednesday, or anyone who may have observed any strange and unusual activity recently, contact Sergeant William May.

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Danbury lawmaker appointed to head legislative committee

Danbury State Senator Julie Kushner has been designated Senate Chair of the Labor Committee in the General Assembly for a second two-year term.  She will also be a Vice Chair position on the Public Health Committee.  Senate President Martin Looney says Kushner's work in her first term spoke for itself, most prominently her lead roles in championing Paid Family and Medical Leave and an increased minimum wage.  Kushner says COVID-19 has shown just how vital public health is for communities and is looking forward to working on the Public Health Committee.

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Danbury Mayor becomes emotional reflecting on 10 terms in office as he prepares to depart

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton choked up while announcing that he will be resigning his position next week to become the next Commissioner of the State Department of Revenue Services.  He made the announcement during the annual Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce State of the City address.  Boughton says he will still be living on Main Street in Danbury and the City will always be his home.  He called it an honor to serve as Mayor for the past two decades.

He recapped his 20 years in office, touting some accomplishments along the way.  Boughton says Heritage Plaza outside City Hall is a place where communities can gather for flag raising ceremonies and to honor their roots.  Danbury is the 11th most diverse city in the United States.  Two of the other items he led off with were the large flagpole at West and Main Streets and the Uncle Sam statue outside the Danbury Railway Museum.

There were a lot of years to cover, all of which included a lot of infrastructure work. Boughton cited the state of the art police station, built for the future and not just for today.  There's a newly renovated firefighter training facility used by not just Danbury but also area departments.  He promoted creation of Fire Engine 26 on the West side to cut response times, the 311 City Line Call center which handles thousands of calls a month and the new Office of Economic Development.  He notes that the ribbon will be cut soon on the new animal control facility.

On the schools front, Boughton oversaw Ellsworth Avenue School, AIS Academy and the West Side Middle School coming into existence.  Danbury High School was recently overhauled with the addition of the Freshmen Academy.  Both middle schools have recently been renovated.  The groundwork has been set for the Danbury Career Academy at the site of the former Matrix building.

Boughton also promoted new parks and playgrounds, parking garages, sidewalks being redone, a recreational trail being added along Crosby Street, over 1,000 acres of open space preserved forever, and 2 dog parks, with a third coming to downtown. 

He says the two housing complexes there, Kennedy Flats and 333 Main Street, are a big boon to businesses in CityCenter.  Boughton recently looked at his first State of the City speech where he talked about the West side sewer intercept, which was needed in order to develop the area with both commercial space and housing.  He believes that's been the key to keeping Danbury's economy going.

Boughton has cut the ribbon on over 10,000 businesses in his time as Mayor, most recently a new cancer treatment center and the Amazon distribution facility.

He noted that the MTA study has been funded, with a goal of connecting the Danbury train station to Southeast and Grand Central.  He says the thriving business environment had led to Danbury being named the Best Small City to start a business in the United States.  Danbury leads the all municipalities in the state in terms of job growth.

Boughton says the City will be closing next week on a new facility for the Women's Center of Greater Danbury on Rose Hill Avenue. The polluted brownfield site was once home to a hatting factory and donated to the Women's Center.

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Judge orders release of 17 virus-vulnerable federal inmates

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A judge has ordered the release of 17 inmates from a federal prison in Connecticut by Saturday, saying government officials have been too slow in moving medically vulnerable prisoners to home confinement or furlough to protect them from the coronavirus.

U.S. District Judge Michael Shea in Hartford issued the order Thursday night as part of a lawsuit by inmates at the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury.

A settlement of the lawsuit in July requires the federal Bureau of Prisons to promptly identify prisoners who are low security risks and have a greater chance of developing serious complications from the virus and release them to home confinement.

The settlement calls for prisoners to be released within 14 days of being approved. But lawyers for the inmates say some of them have been waiting nearly three months to be released after being approved for home confinement.

In court documents, prison officials cited several reasons for the delays in releasing the inmates, including required 14-day quarantines due to the virus and new Bureau of Prisons guidelines in releasing inmates to the community.

A message seeking comment about Shea’s order was left with the U.S. attorney’s office in New Haven, which is representing prison officials.

The inmates’ attorneys say they are representing about 450 medically vulnerable prisoners at Danbury, which houses about 1,000 male and female inmates.

The Bureau of Prisons says there are 30 Danbury inmates and two staff members now infected with COVID-19. Since the pandemic began, 81 inmates and 67 staff members have recovered from the virus, and one inmate has died.

The lawsuit was filed in April by four inmates who said prison officials were not taking seriously a directive by Attorney General William Barr to maximize transfers to home confinement.

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Nuvance to locate offices at The Summit in Danbury

Nuvance Health will create a centralized office space at The Summit, the long vacant Matrix building.  Nuvance executive offices will be staying in Danbury, occupying 200,000 square feet of space, moving hundreds of employees to the City's westside.  Mayor Mark Boughton says the move will spin off millions in economic development in the Mill Plain corridor.

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Putnam County Sheriff's make nine narcotics arrests last month

During the month of November, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department Narcotics Enforcement Unit made a total of nine arrests.  The Street Crimes Unit made four arrests for possession of Heroin, one arrest on a Bench warrant and four arrests at the conclusion of investigations in which search warrants were executed. As a result of these investigations, Sheriff Robert Langley says during a controlled delivery, 500 Xanax tablets and concentrated cannabis never reached the streets. During the execution of three search warrants five handguns, one rifle, quantities of cocaine, Xanax, methamphetamine, concentrated cannabis, and several pounds of marihuana were taken off the streets,  $85,689 in cash was seized from an accused drug dealer.

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Founders Hall in Ridgefield hosting socially distant community fundraiser

Founders Hall in Ridgefield is hosting a new socially distant community fundraiser.  The Founders Hall-iday Light Fight involves homeowners and businesses decorating the exterior of their home or commercial location with holiday lights.  From now through December 20th, the public can drive by and then vote for their favorite by making a monetary donation to Founders Hall. The location that raises the most money will be the winner, to be announced on December 22nd.  Founders Hall asks for a minimum donation of $25 when voting, which can be divided among more than one address.  Founders Hall will publish the addresses of all competitors and will put contest signs on the lawns of participating houses. Participating businesses will be given a large poster to hang in a window or on the door so that they can be easily identified.  Competitors will have their lights on every evening from 6pm to 9pm.

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Newtown Community Center hosts drive thru holiday event

The Newtown Community Center and Newtown Chamber of Commerce are spreading holiday cheer this year on the Fairfield Hills campus.  On Sunday, from the comfort of the car, residents can drive through a winter wonderland for a socially distant visit with Santa.  There's also a 16 minute professional musical holiday light show on the Kent House. Children will be able to drop their letters off to Santa at the Drive Thru North Pole Express Mailbox.  The cost per car is $20 per car load. Half hour slots were available for this event.

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Boughton to resign as Mayor next week to take state job

Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton plans to resign from his role leading the City sometime next week. Governor Ned Lamont announced this morning that he is appointing Boughton to serve as commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services.

Boughton, a Republican, is currently serving his tenth consecutive term as mayor of Danbury, making him the longest-serving mayor in the city’s history. He will begin serving as commissioner on December 18.

Lamont says Boughton has earned a reputation as being a dedicated public servant and hard worker, and his experience as mayor provides him with a considerable amount of knowledge on the inner workings of government, particularly when it comes to the impacts certain measures can have on the local level, where they are closest to home.  He thanked Boughton for making the decision to join his administration.

Boughton says he's looking forward to leading the department and is excited about the chance to serve the people of Connecticut in the Lamont administration.  Boughton noted that he stood by the governor when Connecticut saw its first case of COVID-19 back in March, and he is proud to become a member of his team as he continues to lead the state during this unprecedented period.

Boughton was in the U.S. Army Reserve from 1983 to 1989, during which he achieved the rank of sergeant. He taught social studies at Danbury High School beginning in 1987, and also served as a member of the Danbury Planning Commission from 1995 to 1998. He was elected state representative for the 138th Assembly District in 1998, and was elected to a second term in 2000 before being elected mayor in 2001.

The position of commissioner was most recently held by Scott Jackson, who resigned earlier this year to accept a role in the administration of New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker. John Biello, the agency’s deputy commissioner, has been serving as acting commissioner during the interim.

Boughton’s nomination will be sent to the Connecticut General Assembly for its advice and consent.

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Danbury Mayor expected to be nominated by Lamont as DRS Commissioner

There are reports that Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton will be named by Governor Ned Lamont as the next commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services.  The Hartford Courant cited leaders of the General Assembly’s Executive and Legislative Nominations Committee, which vets nominations from the governor. 

The 56-year old Boughton is serving his 10th term leading Danbury and if confirmed by the legislature, City Council president Joe Cavo would become Mayor. 

State Senate President Martin Looney and Senate Majority Leader Bob Duff reportedly applauded Governor Lamont for his appointment of Mayor Boughton as Commissioner, calling him a seasoned government professional whose experience includes service as a state representative. 

The new General Assembly session starts January 6th. 

Boughton is scheduled to give the State of the City address this morning. 

The acting Commissioner is John Biello, who replaced Scott Jackson when he left to work for New Haven Mayor Justin Elicker. The position pays $155,000 annually plus $35,000 in fringe benefits.

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Bethel First Selectman tests negative for COVID-19, positive for Lyme

There was a COVID-19 scare for Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker recently.  He developed a fever last Sunday and it spiked.  He isolated himself, went to the doctor and ended up with a negative test.  But he says sequestering himself from his family was key while waiting for results.  He ended up with a negative test. Knickerbocker, it turned out, has Lyme Disease. He has a request for residents who suspect they may have COVID-19 and are waiting on test results: sequester in another part of the house.  Knickerbocker says transmission is occurring among families, and transmission is so widespread people don't know where they're picking up the virus.

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Danbury Schools plan to phase students back into in-person learning

Danbury School officials plan to phase students back into in-person learning.  Elementary students could start in a hybrid model on January 19th.  During a forum held on Wednesday by the Danbury Board of Education, Superintendent Sal Pascarella said they have a solid pathway back at this point.  About 100 students with significant special needs returned to the buildings last week and staff has been focused on COVID mitigation efforts.  Danbury plans to have middle school students return on January 25th, and the high school back on February 1st.  Pascarella says they will send more details to parents this weekend and note that plans could change based on advice from the district's medical experts.  Danbury will be part of a state testing pilot program and offer rapid testing through the school-based health centers for students and staff who develop symptoms while in the school building.  Families can choose to keep their students on distance learning.

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Bethel Planners deny two affordable housing applications

The Bethel Planning and Zoning Commission at their meeting this week voted against two affordable housing proposals.  One application was for 11, two-bedroom apartments on Good Hill Road while the other was for 9 two-bedroom apartments on Shelley Road.  Both were submitted by Developer Tim Draper under the state's 8-30g law, which allowed developer to bypass local zoning laws in most cases, as long as a certain percentage are dedicated as affordable. 

Draper says he will revise the Shelley Road development after the fire marshal deemed the driveway as unsafe for emergency vehicles. 

The Inland Wetland Commission initially rejected the Shelley Woods application, but granted approval after facing a lawsuit.  The Planning Commission in their rejection this week said the a 30,000 gallon water tank is needed because the soil is not suitable for septic systems. 

He will appeal the Good Hill Road decision.

Calling it a semi rural area, the Planning Commission said proper outdoor amenities promote a healthy environment and the proposal  lacks sidewalks and green space.  They added that residents would look into the second floor of the development from their first floor living area.  Draper maintains there is no health or safety issue.

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Sherman School moves to remote learning

The Sherman School has moved to remote learning after some students tested positive for coronavirus.  Preschool through 8th graders will do distance learning until at least January 4th.  Sherman was able to have more than two months of in person learning for students.  These are the first two to four positive cases involving a student.  The District did contact tracing and alerted students who were primary contacts to get tested for COVID-19.  Coronavirus has forced the temporary closure of almost every school throughout the state.

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Bus fire extinguished in Brookfield

A bus fire was quickly extinguished in Brookfield yesterday afternoon.  Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company responded to the Congregational Church on Whisconier Road shortly before 5pm.  Firefighters found flames and smoke showing from the wheel area of the front of the vehicle. The bus was modified to be a motor home and had extensive woodwork throughout.  Approximately 20 firefighters worked to bring the fire under control and were on scene for about an hour and a half.  The Brookfield Fire Marshal’s office was on scene investigating the cause.  There were no injuries.

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Detonating fireworks, collapsed staircase make Monroe house fire challenge to extinguish

Detonating fireworks and a collapsed staircase made a challenging response to a Monroe house fire yesterday, with one firefighter transported to the hospital for evaluation.  Stepney, Monroe and Stevenson volunteer fire departments responded to Hattertown Road yesterday morning. 

Firefighters initially battled the blaze from within, which quickly spread throughout the house due to its age, construction type, additions, and void spaces.  Firefighters had to retreat due to deteriorating conditions, structural damage and detonating fireworks. It took approximately 90 minutes to get under control.  

A mayday was called after an interior staircase collapsed under a firefighter but his crew was able to free him and he resumed working.

Crews from Trumbull and Shelton assisted with manpower while tankers responded from Newtown and Oxford.

No residents were injured. A second firefighter was later evaluated at the hospital. The house is uninhabitable and the fire marshal is investigating.

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Bridgewater official calls for removal of temporary lawn signs

Bridgewater First Selectman Curtis Read has a warning for residents. He says temporary signs that advertise contractors need to come down immediately. These are never allowed by ordinance and Read says they will be removed tomorrow, if still visible. 

Residents are also reporting more cans, bottles and fast food garbage building up on roadsides.  He asked that homeowners and businesses to help remove any of this garbage near their property where this is happening. 

Bridgewater Police are being asked to increase speeding enforcement over the holidays.  First Selectman Curtis Read says cars are going way too fast, and delivery vehicles are ubiquitous. 

He also called on walkers, runners and bike riders to follow protocols where possible. This means foot traffic should use the left side of the road, against traffic, while bicycles should stay on the right, with traffic.

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Culinary school continues to provide meals to those in need in New Milford

The Community Culinary School of Northwestern Connecticut in New Milford has prepared and delivered more than 19,000 meals since the pandemic began in mid-March.  While they have paused their normal teaching curriculum, nothing has slowed at the school, instead pivoting temporarily to the relief efforts.  They serve New Milford Senior Center patrons, partnering with Staff and Volunteers, as well as local food banks.

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Bethel schools to provide meals during winter break

The Bethel Public School District will be distributing breakfast and lunch for all Bethel students and their siblings, under age 18, during the holiday break.  Meal pick ups are Saturday, December 26th and January 2nd at BHS from 10:30am to 11:30am.   To receive this services, families must fill out a form by Monday, December 21st at 8 AM.  The form can be found on the district's website and a link on their Facebook page.

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Brothers arrested for alleged drug sales in Danbury

Two brothers have been arrested in Danbury for a variety of drug offenses.  An investigation was launched weeks ago into resident complaints about Terrel Little allegedly selling drugs from homes throughout the Danbury area.  Officers set up surveillance at Brookside condos on Padanaram Road at the unit of 29-year old Terrel and 31-year old  Terrance Little.  During the surveillance, Terrel was followed from his residence to another Danbury address where he was taken into custody.  A search of his car turned up a quantity of cocaine.  At the brothers' condo, Terrance was found with several forms of illicit drugs including a substantial quantity of marijuana, THC products, fentanyl, and cocaine.  Police also seized drug paraphernalia and money.  Each were charged with Possession of a controlled substance (3 Counts), Possession of a Controlled Substance with Intent to Sell (3 Counts), Possession of a Controlled Substance With Intent to Sell Within 1500’ School, Possession of a Controlled Substance Within 1500’ school, Possession of a Controlled Substance With Intent to Sell < Kilo Marijuana, Possession of Drug Para., and Possession of Drug Para Within 1500’ School.

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New representative for New Fairfield gets committee assignments

All Greater Danbury area incumbents had been reelected last month to their state General Assembly seats.  There was an open position in the 108th House district of New Fairfield.  Representative-elect Patrick Callahan is set to be sworn-in at the State Capitol on  January 6th.  The Republican has been appointed to 3 committees--the Education, Environment, and Judiciary Committees.  Callahan is currently capping a 30-year career within Connecticut's Judicial Branch, as a chief Probation Officer. He also chaired the Candlewood Lake Authority for a decade.  Callahan says the work of the Education Committee has been critical to area students and wants the state to provide them access to the academic tools, both in-person and virtual, that they need to be successful in the classroom and beyond.  The district also includes Danbury, New Milford and Sherman.

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Intersection improvements coming to heavily traveled part of Danbury

Intersection improvements are coming to a heavily traveled part of Danbury.  A 2-point-65 million dollar grant has been awarded by the state to the City for upgrades to the White Street and Locust Avenue intersection.  The City will pay for the design costs.  The project includes adding dedicated turning lanes.  Some pedestrian safety improvements will also be made.  The Public Works Department will re-time the traffic lights from the West Conn parking garage down to the intersection with Federal Road. Construction could start as soon as the late summer or early fall and is expected to take 18 months.

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Brookfield gets volunteers for vaccine administration, seeks others

Brookfield officials put out a call recently for volunteers to help with the town's eventual COVID-19 vaccine administration effort.  First Selectman Steve Dunn says they were looking for licensed active and retired nurses, other healthcare providers and EMTs qualified to give injections.  Two people have already volunteered to help administer vaccines.  The town is looking for additional volunteers with the appropriate background.  The state hasn't finalized distribution plans though several municipalities are preparing for when that time comes. 

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NY man arrested for allegedly stealing packages from around Danbury area

The New Fairfield Resident State Trooper has arrested a New York man for allegedly stealing packages.  The Newstimes reports that the Trooper's Office received a call Monday evening about a suspicious vehicle parked on Middletown Drive.  When the patrol car came on scene, the driver started to pull away, but was stopped.  Officers identified 36-year old Justin Delucia as the driver and found multiple packages with different names in the back of the car.  None were addressed to the Stormville man.  The packages had been stolen from various residences, primarily in the Danbury area.  Delucia was charged with larceny, criminal trespass, possession of less than a half-ounce of cannabis and use/possession of drug paraphernalia.

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New Milford Board of Education appoints interim assistant superintendent

The New Milford Board of Education appointed an interim assistant superintendent.  During a special meeting on Tuesday, Catherine Calabrese was named to the position.  She is current assistant principal for the Northville Elementary and Schaghticoke Middle Schools and will begin in the new role today.  The previous interim assistant superintendent, Alicia DiCorpo, was appointed interim superintendent at the end of October.  Permanent replacements are still being sought for the positions.  New Milford High School assistant principal Kevin Best will oversee the Northville Elementary and Schaghticoke Middle Schools temporarily.

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Local lawmaker says young adults now the bulk of COVID positive cases

The COVID-19 vaccine will begin rolling out in phases, with distribution prioritized based upon risk factor and individual need. Bethel State Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan says it's important that everyone continue to wear a mask and social distance.  He notes that Connecticut is NOT planning on a COVID vaccine requirement.  The state's COVID-19 numbers show that the biggest age bracket for infections these days are 20- to 29-year-olds. In April when the state was at its peak for COVID-19 cases, 0- to 39-year-olds accounted for 27% of the cases and now they account for more than 46% of the cases.

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HRRA Recycling Billboard Contest extended

The 14th Annual HRRA Recycling Billboard Contest has been extended to January 15th.  The theme this year is :  "Recycle Right!" Students in grades K-12 can participate.  Details and drop off locations can be found on the HRRA website.

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Redding COVID positivity rate about half of state average

Redding reported 5 new cases of COVID-19 yesterday.  The town has fewer cases than neighboring towns, but officials called on residents to keep using precautions of masks, social distancing, and hand washing. Redding's test positivity is 3.24 percent, compared to the state average of 8.65 percent.

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Brookfield, Newtown to share in federal funding to protect Long Island Sound, feeder waters

$3.8 million in federal funding is being made available to Connecticut to help protect the Long Island Sound and the waterways that feed the Sound.  About half of the money will go toward 16 projects. 

One project will facilitate the building of green infrastructures Brookfield.  Long Island Sound Futures Fund Grant Funds of $24,299, matching funds from Brookfield of $13,150 mean a Total Conservation Impact of $37,458.  The Brookfield Public Works will develop design plans and secure permits for a green infrastructure stormwater retrofit at the public works facility in Brookfield.  The town is working on Still River Watershed Plan Implementation.

Another project will reduce pollution in Newtown’s Pootatuck River watershed.   Long Island Sound Futures Fund Grant Funds of $29,216, matching funds from Newtown of $15,717 mean a Total Conservation Impact of $44,933.  The town will develop a watershed plan for the Pootatuck watershed to reduce water pollution in the Pootatuck River Basin of Long Island Sound.  

One project will monitor water quality in nine waterways in the Norwalk River watershed.  Earthplace – The Nature Discovery Center will conduct water quality monitoring to help improve nine waterways affected by pollution in Fairfield County

The grant is made possible through combined funds from the EPA, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and will reach more than 670,000 residents, in Connecticut and elsewhere, through environmental education programs and conservation projects. 

The funds will result in treating 5.4 million gallons of stormwater, installing 23,000 square feet of green infrastructure and preventing 3,000 pounds of nitrogen from entering the Sound. Projects will also open 3.7 river miles and restore 108 acres of coastal habitat for fish and wildlife.

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New Fairfield Library closing until further notice starting tomorrow

Due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases New Fairfield Library will be closed until further notice starting tomorrow.  The library will be closed to the public, but residents can still pick up reserved materials.  Front door pickup will be available Monday & Wednesday 4pm to 6 and Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday 10am to noon. The book drop will remain open, but patrons can keep all materials until the library reopens as no fines will be charged during this time. Digital resources are always available. New Fairfield residents can access these services using their library card number and pin or password from the library account. 

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Region 9 schools to remain in distance learning through December 23rd

Region 9 schools will remain in distance learning through December 23rd and plan on returning on January 4th.  Superintendent Rydell Harrison says it's a proactive rather than a reactive approach. 

A determination of the learning model, hybrid or in-person, will be communicated prior to the return from winter recess and will be made based upon the health metrics at that time.  Redding's Health Director anticipates that the caseload is only going to continue to worsen over the coming weeks.

In the 8 months since the first confirmed case of COVID-19 was reported in Redding, the community has had over 180 positive cases. The cases from November almost tripled from the previous month, and contact tracing has revealed that human behavior is still the main driver in transmission. First Selectman Julia Pemberton says the full impact of Thanksgiving won’t be known for at least another week because the incubation period for COVID is 14 days and then there are lags in the reporting process.

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Pandemic takes toll on Danbury revenue collections

Like everything else, the current public health emergency is taking a toll on the City of Danbury's budget.  Finance Director David St Hilaire says there's a lot of things that his department has to be mindful of as the pandemic wears on.

He says the property tax collection, for now, is doing ok, but cautioned that the impact of event like a pandemic has lagging indictors.  St Hilaire says that means the City will start seeing the problems in the coming year, and warned that it will be severe.

St Hilaire notes that Danbury is not getting anywhere close to the non-property tax revenue he hoped for.  The City is getting nothing from Parks and Rec, though Town Clerk registrations and the permit department have kept on pace.

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Interfaith service to mark Sandy Hook anniversary to be virtual

The interfaith service to mark the anniversary of the shooting at Sandy Hook School will be different on Monday due to the pandemic.  This will be the 8th anniversary of the shooting that claimed the lives of 20 children and 6 educators.  A virtual service will be live-streamed at 7pm on the Newtown Congregational Church Facebook, instead of the in-person interfaith prayer service.  Two smaller services will be held at St. Rose of Lima Church, each capped at 100 people.  They are planned for 6:45am and 9am.   The private evening Mass will include the traditional reading of the victims’ names.  Superintendent Lorrie Rodrigue says a virtual service will be offered for faculty rather than the early morning service that has traditionally taken place when the anniversary has fallen on a weekday.  Age-appropriate messages about the anniversary will be provided remotely to students in the upper grades as the district is still on remote learning.

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Candlewood Lake Authority backs delay of annual boat count

The Candlewood Lake Authority is backing a recommendation from First Light to delay the scheduled 2020 flyover to determine boating density on the lake due to COVID-19 making this an atypical year.  The Board agreed and supports First Light's request to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to delay it to 2021.  CLA officials say they want to ensure that every flyover is able to be compared to other years.  Members of CLA will meet with First Light to discuss the methodology used to calculate boating density and the data visualization used to help make sure that the information is as useful to all stakeholders as possible.

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Erratic driving leads police to unlicensed motorist in possession of stolen weapon

Erratic driving in Southbury has led to a slew of charges for a New Haven man.  Southbury Police responded to a complaint Saturday about an erratic driver on Southford Road and located the motorist nearby at the Wheels gas station.  26-year old Rickey Traynham didn't have a license and a stolen gun was found in the car.  He was charged with Criminal Possession of a Firearm, Stealing a Firearm, Weapons in a Motor Vehicle, Misuse of Marker Plates, Operating Without a License and Insufficient Insurance. Traynham was held on bond. He was arraigned in Waterbury Superior Court yesterday.

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FirstLight seeks delay to perform aerial boat counts on Candlewood Lake

FirstLight has asked the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for a one-year delay on performing the aerial boat counts on Candlewood Lake.  First Light asked to put off to this summer generation of the 6 figures from the survey flights. 

This request is in response to the challenges faced by all recreational users during the COVID-19 pandemic, as the summer 2020 recreational use was inconsistent with historical use levels.

FirstLight consulted with the Candlewood Lake Authority. FirstLight has scheduled a meeting with the CLA over the winter to discuss the methodology expected to be used to generate the 6 figures from the aerial watercraft counts. 

FirstLight expects to perform a Recreation Management Plan review and update next year as required by the approved Shoreline Management Plan. The delayed aerial assessment will coincide with that stakeholder review and update of any changes proposed changes to the Plan.

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Bethel Planners hold virtual hearing on proposed housing, commercial development

The Bethel Planning Zoning Commission is hosting a meeting tonight about a proposal for 18 apartments and 6,525 square feet of commercial space in the downtown area.  The application for 155 Greenwood Avenue and four other buildings between Greenwood and South Street includes 27 parking spots.  The proposal also includes a pedestrian walkway on the west side of the development.  The third public hearing on the application is tonight at 7, via Zoom. 

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New Milford man surrenders nursing license over alleged sex assault of patient

A New Milford man arrested this summer for allegedly sexually assaulting a New Milford Hospital patient has surrendered his nursing license.  The Newstimes reports that Charnjit Singh Bains surrendered his registered nursing license.  The arrest warrant says the alleged sexual assault happened in December of last year. 

The 62-year old was granted a nursing license in 2009 and surrendered the license in August. 

The Newstimes reports that the victim told police she reported the incident to a female nurse and the hospital’s chief nursing officer the day it happened.  The hospital didn't perform a sexual assault kit until two days later, which police say means all potential evidence was lost.  The victim reported the incident to police 5 days later. 

Hospital staff reportedly told police they were unaware of any other complaints made against Bains over the course of his employment, but police say they found other sexual assault complaints had been made against him in the past.

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Danbury City Hall to close as City sets new single-day COVID case record

Danbury City Hall is closing up once again.  Mayor Mark Boughton says public may no longer make an appointment to go to City Hall, but may call departments for assistance.  Boughton said a “decent amount” of employees have gotten sick with coronavirus. City Hall will get a deep clean between Christmas and New Years.

The City set a new single day record for positive cases over the weekend.  Danbury reported 223 new COVID-19 cases on Saturday, 115 on Sunday and 74 on Monday.

Boughton is explaining the City's response to complaints of COVID-19 regulations violations.  If they are, Boughton says the team will met with the owner or manager and put a mitigation plan into action.  There's an education session they can also attend. If there's multiple violations reported, it's escalated to the COVID Health Enforcement Team.  The CHET team will go out with the Fire Marshal, Building Department, Police and others for an unannounced visit. 

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Danbury Schools to host forum on return to in person learning

Danbury School officials are hosting a virtual informational forum tomorrow night about the eventual return to in person learning.  The Reopening Plan will be discussed during the virtual presentation.  Danbury has been on remote learning all school year.  The plan calls for bringing students back to the buildings in mid-January under the hybrid model.  District officials will answer questions during the forum.  Parents can ask questions through a form on the district’s website.  The forum will be at 7pm tomorrow and livestreamed through the Hatters TV YouTube channel.

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New Milford to make snow days distance learning days

The New Milford School District has decided that any snow days this year due to inclement weather will be remote learning days. Each time there is inclement weather causing school buildings to close, all students and staff will follow their respective school or grade schedules for the day while working remotely. Principals will share the remote schedules each time there is a snow day with families.

Unless there are widespread power outages that make remote learning impossible, remote learning will continue for all children across the New Milford district when schools cannot open safely. If widespread power outages do occur, each day will count as a traditional snow day with no remote instruction and the missed day will be added to the end of the school year. 

The last day of school for students is slated to be Friday, June 18th with high school graduation scheduled for Saturday, June 19th.  Interim Superintendent Alisha DiCorpo says the decision to have remote learning instead of a snow day is because otherwise students beginning summer school would have little to no break in between the end of the school year and beginning in summer program.

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Danbury Library temporarily ends curbside pick up of materials

Due to the increased number of COVID-19 cases in Danbury, the Library is temporarily ending curbside pick up of materials.  The decision was made with guidance from the Mayor’s office and Health Department.  Online programming, and other forms of virtual engagement will continue as planned, with the exception of grab and go programs. Danbury Library was able to open their doors for about a month from mid-October to mid-November.  In a new report to the City Council, Library staff say 347 people made appointments to use the computers, copy and fax machine, and to browse the departments by appointment. They circulated 33-hundred items for adults and more than 3-thousand junior and teen items between October 19th and November 17th when the library went back to curbside pick up only.  While the library was open, patrons still picked up 11-hundred items via curbside pickup.  Patrons from other libraries in Connecticut checked out 377 items.

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Brookfield Schools report multiple new COVID-19 cases

Brookfield Public Schools have reported multiple new COVID-19 cases.  Emails sent to the school community says two people at the High School tested positive on Friday.  3 staff members and 10 students at Center School, Whisconier Middle School and the High School are currently in isolation after testing positive.  About 5 dozen other people are in quarantine due to close contacts. The Brookfield school district is on remote learning through January 15th.  The plan is to have in-person learning resume on January 19th.

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Housatonic Valley Regional High School moves to full distance learning

Housatonic Valley Regional High School has moved to full distance learning.  Assuming safe conditions relative to the spread of COVID-19 in our area, students will return to in-person learning in the hybrid model on January 19. This timing allows Region 1 to account for the potential of community spread over the winter holidays and return to school when the risk of infection should be more manageable. While this recommendation is based partly on the current uptick of positive COVID-19 cases at Housatonic Valley Regional High School, it also has been made due to the increased number of students who have chosen to become distance learners, making it increasingly difficult for teachers to create a cohesive learning environment in their classrooms.

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Women's Center seeking campus director

The Women's Center of Greater Danbury is looking for some help.  They are seeking candidates to join the Direct Services team as the Manager of Campus Counseling and Advocacy.  The ideal candidate will provide advocacy, support, counseling, referrals, case management, education, and training when it comes to gender-based discrimination, harassment, and violence on local campuses. While gender-based violence prevention is the primary focus of this position, the expectation is that the role is also integrated into the overall gender equity work of the Women's Center.

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Newtown Selectmen to take up Fairfield Hills proposal

The Newtown Board of Selectmen will take up a proposal related to Fairfield Hills tonight.  The proposed amendment request to the Planning and Zoning Commission would allow housing as part of the Adaptive Reuse Zone for the former state psychiatric hospital. 

Subject to a Special Exception permit, rental residential housing would be allowed in up to two of the existing buildings on the campus.  It could include assisted living, 55 and older, affordable and market rate units.  The lease agreement must be negotiated with the Board of Selectmen and Fairfield Hills Authority.  Non-profit projects shall negotiate a pay in lieu of taxes (PILOT) agreement with the Board of Selectmen. 

Residential unit rental agreements shall contain a notification and waiver of Parks and Recreation activities, daily public use and special events held at the Fairfield Hills, there must be a Common Area Maintenance charge, parking agreement and a commercial component.  The proposals must also maintain existing historic exterior architecture.  Apartments will be limited to one and/or two bedroom units. 

The Newtown Board of Selectmen's meeting is at 7:30pm.

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Danbury officials sign off on firefighter union agreement

The Danbury City Council has signed off on a new contract with the firefighters union.  Firefighters will continue to operate under 24-hour shifts and not see a salary increase this fiscal year.  There is a caveat though, if the City's finances improve, there could be wage increases.  Raises are included in the next two years of the three year agreement. Firefighters are protected from layoffs or furloughs under terms similar to the recently approved contract for the Danbury Municipal Employees Association.

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Light the Lights featured small ceremony in Danbury

There wasn't a big to do, but CityCenter Danbury still held a small ceremony to Light the Lights on Library Plaza.  The flipping of the switch was followed by the Parade of Lights.  Fire trucks  from the Department decorated with lights and ornaments made their way from headquarters, down West Street and to Main Street.

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Newtown tree lighting postponed to this week

The annual Christmas Tree lighting in Newtown was postponed from this weekend.  It will take place on Friday night, but will be modified from past years due to the pandemic.  The tree will be lit before dark and there will not be a ceremony.  Residents are invited to drive by the illuminated tree.  Hawley Road will be temporarily closed from 4:30 until 8pm, but all other roadways will remain open. 

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Vacant Danbury storefront to be filled by discount retailer

A vacant store front in Danbury will soon be filled.  Renovations are underway in the North Street Shopping Center at the former Rite Aid. Five Below, a specialty discount store, will fill the space.  The retailer has another location at the  Danbury Square shopping center on Backus Avenue.

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Sherman firefighters sell all trees on site for December fundraiser

Sherman Volunteer Fire Department has sold out of their entire inventory of Christmas trees.  The volunteers thanked everyone who stopped by to purchase one as part of a fundraiser for the Fire Department.  This coming Sunday, Santa will make his fire truck tour of Sherman with the firefighters.

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Danbury Police continue to see trend in thefts from unlocked cars

Due to issues with the server at the State’s Department of Public Safety, Danbury Police Chief Patrick Ridenhour was unable to update the monthly Uniform Crime Report for the City Council's meeting last week.  The statistics will be included in next month’s report.  Council members asked if there was anything that stood out in the number to date or any notable incidents they should be aware of.  Ridenhour says the only issue Danbury still seems to be having is vehicle break ins, but he noted that in most cases the cars are  unlocked with the keys inside. 

Councilman Farley Santos says a perpetrator broke into a car that he was selling so there was nothing in it for the thieves to take.

Ridenhour called on residents to help with so-called target hardening, locking unoccupied vehicles and not leaving the keys inside cars.  Ridenhour says it will not only be harder for thieves to take items, but easier on officers on patrol to identify if the person owns that car.  If they're locked, he says it's easier to pick out a person walking car to car pulling on handles rather than someone who walks up to a car, gets in and starts it up.

Ridenhour says they've only had minimal success in cracking the crimes, though they have identified some suspects in some cases.  Danbury officers made a couple of arrests recently.  Ridenhour notes that this type of crime is happening across the state.  They think there is some connection and level of organization but they're unsure how deep it is.  Danbury Police are working with other municipal departments and state police.

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Dozens of new COVID-19 cases reported in New Fairfield

Since Thanksgiving Day, there have been 56 new, confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Fairfield.  These numbers are higher than any the town experienced in the spring, and the rate of infection continues to increase.  First Selectman Pat Del Monaco encouraged residents to wear a mask, practice social distancing, stay home, and don't gather with people outside the household.  She says these measures are not only to reduce the spread and  protect the community, but to lessen the strain on health care workers and hospitals.  Statewide, there are currently 1,150 hospitalizations, including 330 in Fairfield County.  At the peak in late April, there were roughly 2,000 hospitalizations statewide.  Contact tracing is showing spread within households and social gatherings.  All age groups are affected, male and female.

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Brookfield doubles COVID-19 cases over two week span

In the two weeks, ending on November 29th, Brookfield has had 116 new cases of positive COVID-19 tests reported. This is almost twice the previous two week period reported. That moves the rate per 100,000 residents up to 48.7, which is also almost double the prior two weeks. The threshold to be in the red zone is 15 cases per 100,000 residents.  Brookfield had additional deaths in town since the last report, bringing the total to 13 deaths to date. Positivity rate in Brookfield is now 6.8 percent, up from 5.9 percent last week. In November alone Brookfield had 112 cases reported, the highest month since June. In 3 days in December, Brookfield has had 27 cases reported. Based on the contact tracing, transmission of the virus continues to primarily be a result of social gatherings, where masks are not worn and social distancing is violated.

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COVID-19 testing session added in Danbury

COVID-19 Testing Session at the Connecticut Institute for Community's 120 Main Street location was canceled on Saturday due to inclement weather so a new session has been added this week.  There's a special Tuesday COVID testing session tomorrow from 8:30am to 11:30am.  Those seeking testing can be tested this afternoon as well, from 1pm to 3pm.  Testing is open to all, regardless of symptoms or exposure, with prescreening included.  Pre-registration is not required though it is encouraged due to high testing volume.  Testing is free. Insurance is not required, nor is a doctor’s order.  Photo ID is REQUIRED.

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Ridgefield Historical Society hosting webinar about Revolutionary War-era skeletons

The Ridgefield Historical Society is hosting a webinar about the Revolutionary War-era skeletons unearthed recently.  Nick Bellantoni, Emeritus Connecticut State Archeologist, discuss the history, discovery, and excavation of the burials found last December.  He will also provide an update on the forensic analysis currently underway.  The event is titled Living Their Enemies, Dying Their Guests: Four Revolutionary Soldier Burials.  The Zoom event will be held December 8th from 7pm to 8pm.  Construction activities working to lower the dirt grade under a house basement dating to 1790 uncovered human skeletal remains of young, robust adult males, all of which were hastily buried together in a common shallow grave where the bodies are commingled with overlapping arms and legs. The discovered burials are located in the area of the April 1777 Battle of Ridgefield.

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Kent gets grant for housing improvements

Connecticut is awarding $13 million dollars to 12 municipalities for infrastructure upgrades that will modernize and rehabilitate housing for low and moderate-income individuals.  Among the projects getting a grant is South Commons in Kent for Capitol Improvements.  $800,000 will go toward needed improvements to all units of affordable elderly and disabled housing.  Boilers and hot water tanks will be replaced and combination exhaust fan/LED lighting will be installed in all bathrooms.  The work also includes removal and replacement of the kitchen flooring with new low VOC emitting luxury vinyl tile and rubber base. Site work will be completed based on remaining and available funds.

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Family member of Region 1 student tests positive for COVID-19

A family member of a Kent Center School student has tested positive for coronavirus. The affected person is not a Region One student, has never been in the school building and has had no contact with any staff or students other than the middle school student, who is a sibling, and is symptom free. The family member and the student will remain at home in quarantine according to the direction provided by the Torrington Area Health District. There has been no close contact in the school so there is no need to close any additional classrooms at this time.

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Ridgefield to hold week-long Drive-Thru COVID-19 test event

The Town of Ridgefield will hold a week long Drive-Thru COVID-19 test event.  On Monday through Friday, December 11, residents can be tested at Yanity Gym from 8am to noon.  First Selectman Rudy Marconi says people can sign up on the Docs website this weekend.  The pop up event is not just for Ridgefield residents.  Antigen testing as well as PCR testing will be available.

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Wilton Police extend fundraising efforts for pediatric cancer patients

No Shave November may be over, but not for the Wilton Police Department. They have offered to fundraise for Circle of Care by not shaving for all of December.  The organization, which helps families facing a pediatric cancer diagnosis, is located in Wilton.  Police Departments across Connecticut raised nearly $30,000 for Circle of Care last month.

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Water Witch Hose fire company's Parade of Lights route extended

The Water Witch Hose fire company's annual Parade of Lights route has been extended to allow for more parking and greater social distancing. The caroling portion of this event has been canceled due to the ongoing public health emergency so there is no need to congregate on the New Milford town green.  Participants are encouraged to find a legal parking space along the route and enjoy the parade  from the safety of the car. 

The 2020 Parade of Lights is being held on Saturday December 5th, starting at 7:30pm at the firehouse.


The Parade will then proceed:
Left on Prospect Hill Road
Right on East Street
Left on Elm Street
Right on Main Street
Left on Bridge Street
Left on Main Street
Left on Bennett Street
Left on Railroad Street
Right on Bridge Street
Right on Patriot’s Way
Left on Young’s Field Road

Parade Ends at Veteran’s Bridge

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Former Easton official arrested for alleged larceny

The former Easton Republican Registrar of Voters has been charged with larceny for allegedly stealing from the Easton Exchange Club.  63-year old Vincent Caprio was also charged last month with fraud and released on bond.  The Easton Courier reports that the 63-year old was President of the club at the time and allegedly stole nearly 18-thousand dollars.  Easton Police launched an investigation in June and Caprio resigned in September as Easton’s Republican Registrar of Voters, citing health reasons. 

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Bristol man arrested for incident at Sherman Town Park

A Bristol man has been arrested for an incident that happened at Sherman Town Park in April of 2019.  State Police Troopers were dispatched to Danbury Superior Court on Tuesday to serve an active warrant for Scott Palmenta.  The 49-year old was charged with burglary and illegal taking of a payment card.  Palmenta remained in Judicial Marshall custody that day and was arraigned.

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Redding COVID infection rate on par with neighbors

Redding's daily test positivity rate is 7.95 percent.  That's on par with the positive cases recorded in neighboring towns.  Bethel has a 7.7 percent positivity rate, Easton at 7.5.  The significantly more populated nearby City of Danbury has a positivity rate of 15.9 percent.

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Wilton Police respond to reports of packages stolen from homes

'Tis the season for thieving.  The Wilton Police Department has already responded to several reports of package thefts early on in this Holiday season.  Police suggests several steps to take if you won't be home at that time of delivery.  That includes having packages delivered to the office, installing security cameras, requiring signature on delivery place a vacation hold or sign up for delivery alerts.  Anyone who sees something suspicious is asked to contact the Wilton Police Department.

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Connecticut unveils preliminary vaccine distribution plan

Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont on Thursday unveiled the state’s planned distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine, which includes an initial focus on frontline health care workers and nursing home residents.

The goal is to have everyone in the state who wants a dose to be vaccinated by early fall of 2021.

While the state’s final detailed plan was not yet ready to be released, Lamont said the first phase of distribution will include 204,000 health care workers, 22,000 nursing home residents and 6,000 medical first responders, such as paramedics and EMTs. Lamont said those figures represent 80% of people in those groups agreeing to take a vaccine.

The Democratic governor said his state advisory group followed federal guidance, which he called “very sensible.” Lamont said it makes sense, for example, to vaccinate residents of nursing homes early in the process, noting how the population has been hit hard by COVID-19.

“Number one, these are the folks most likely to suffer complications. These are the older folks who most likely suffer fatalities. And these are the folks most likely to go into the hospital,” he said during a briefing for reporters. “So not only will we hopefully be saving lives, we’re hopefully keeping these folks out of the hospital, which again, adds to our capacity in the hospitals.”

Connecticut tentatively expects to receive its first shipment of 31,000 doses of vaccine from Pfizer on Dec. 14 and its first shipment of 61,000 doses from Moderna on Dec. 21. He provided a chart that projected Connecticut receiving up to 380,000 doses of the two vaccines in batches by Jan. 25. Dr. Reggy Eadie, chief executive officer at Trinity Health of New England and the co-chairman of Lamont’s advisory group, said health care workers in key specialties, such as emergency room staff, would be prioritized.

About 31,000 second doses are expected to be shipped to Connecticut on Jan. 4, with 212,000 delivered by Jan. 25, according to the Lamont administration.

Under the state’s preliminary distribution plan, Phase 1B will run from mid-January to late May. That’s when “critical” workers, people living in other congregate settings such as prisons and group homes, adults 65 years and older and people under 65 who are considered “high risk” for getting infected, would be vaccinated. Under Phase 2, which is expected to begin in early June, those under age 18 and remaining residents over 18 would receive the vaccine.

As of Thursday, 1,191 people were hospitalized for COVID-19 in Connecticut, a slight decrease of 11 since Wednesday. Meanwhile, there have been 5,111 COVID-related deaths, an increase of 20 since Wednesday.

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Danbury Mayor reminds businesses of assistance for partial unemployment

Connecticut has expanded its decades old Shared Work program, which helps businesses prevent layoffs by allowing them to temporarily reduce employee hours and use partial unemployment benefits to supplement lost wages.  Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton has been talking with the Governor's Office about more help for businesses and says there's about $7 million in funding available, and that few people are taking advantave of the program.

The federal government will reimburse the Trust Fund for unemployment costs normally charged to the employers. 

The Shared Work program helps employers retain a talented workforce during economic downturns. Rather than laying off the workforce – and having to recruit, hire, and train new labor when the economy recovers – Shared Work employers are able to reduce overhead by temporarily cutting hours. Their employees keep their jobs at a reduced schedule, keep their benefits, and are able to file for partial unemployment benefits for the lost wages.

Employer eligibility includes companies with two or more workers that have hourly reductions within 10 to 60 percent of normal hours, provided that the lost hours are not related to seasonal separations. Shared Work runs for a maximum of six months for each employee.

In the year prior to the pandemic – from March 2019 through March 2020 – the program served 288 companies and just under 2,900 workers.

Companies interested in participating in Shared Work must apply with the Connecticut Department of Labor.

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Annual Christmas tree lighting in Newtown modified

The annual Christmas Tree lighting in Newtown will be held tonight, but it will be modified.  The tree at Rams Pasteure and Main Street will be lit before dark and there will not be a ceremony.  Newtown Residents are invited to drive by the illuminated tree from 5-10pm.  Hawley Road will be temporarily closed from 4:30 until 8pm, but all other roadways will remain open.  Police asked motorists to use caution when driving in the area, and enjoy the evening.  The Newtown Parks and Recreation Department, The Tree Lighting Committee and The Borough of Newtown will be lighting the luminary.

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Another setback for Candlewood Mountain solar project as contracts get cancelled

Companies are canceling agreements to buy power from the proposed solar farm on Candlewood Mountain.  The Newstimes reports that a letter was sent to the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities saying that the company contracted with Candlewood Solar have sent written notice of termination of their respective power purchase agreements.  According to the letter, Candlewood Solar didn’t notify the companies in writing ahead of a deadline about whether it satisfied Critical Milestones like being approved for required permits.  The grassroots opposition group Rescue Candlewood Mountain called the cancellation a huge setback for the project and a boon to the protection of an endangered species.  Ameresco planned to offer access of up to 20 megawatts of renewable energy.

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Newtown Legislative Council blocks proposed ban on carrying guns in town

The Newtown Legislative Council, in a split vote, has blocked a proposed ban on carrying guns in town.  The decision not to send the proposal to a review committee was made because the town can't preempt state law.  The Newtown Action Alliance proposed a ban on carrying guns on town property and at public demonstrations.  The organization said it was to prevent intimidation of teenagers at demonstrations, who have been active in protests since coming of age at the time of the Sandy Hook School shootings.  The Southbury-based Connecticut Citizens Defense League applauded the decsion of the Legislative Council.  There are routine demonstrations held outside the Newtown-based National Shooting Sports Foundation headquarters.  The proposal was modeled on firearms restriction ordinances at parks and other recreation spaces in Danbury, Ridgefield. and Bridgeport.

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SCOTTY Fund's Winter's Eve Gala to be virtual

The SCOTTY Fund's Winter's Eve Gala and Auction of Trees will be virtual this year.  The event hosted by the Bethel-based organization raises money for children with life-threatening and critical illnesses.  It will take place virtually on December 5th.  After purchasing a ticket, participants will receive an email with a link to the Virtual Gala and Auction of Trees.  There are different ticket levels, including VICP, which the Scotty Fund says stands for Very Compassionate and Inspiring People. General Admission Kindness Ticket donation includes a link to view the Gala and bid on items.     

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Bethel firefighters warn residents to keep Christmas tree hydrated

With Thanksgiving in the books, many are turning their attention to the December holiday season.  For many, that means getting a Christmas tree.  Bethel Fire & EMS are again holding a tree sale as a fundraiser for the department.  They're also offering a safety reminder for people who do get live trees.  Whether it's a pre-cut tree from the firehouse, or somewhere else, or picked fresh from a farm, Bethel firefighters say it’s important to cut a slice off the bottom of the tree to ensure it will take water once home in the stand.  Even if you cut down a tree freshly, you’ll want to make sure the base is fresh because a properly hydrated tree lessens the risk of fire.  Bethel Fire officials say a dry Christmas tree burns with more energy/intensity than a gallon of gasoline.

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New Fairfield officials urge residents to prepare for winter weather

New Fairfield First Selectman Pat Del Monaco says they have learned from past storms, that it is not unrealistic for residents to be isolated and without power for an extended period of time.  As winter approaches, she urged everyone to plan ahead for the possibility of sheltering at home in the event of an extended power outage.  New Fairfield will not be able to provide shelter, congregate meals or showers for residents like in the past because of state guidance during the pandemic.  Anyone unable to provide a reliable source of heat should make arrangements to shelter with family or friends who may be unaffected by the emergency.  If that's the case though, Del Monaco says residents must wear masks, practice social distancing and stay in a separate area of the home if possible.

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Redding contact tracers not getting cooperation from patients

Redding's contact tracer, a medical doctor, is experiencing a lack responsiveness from COVID-19 positive patients who they call.  First Selectman Julia Pemberton says any resident who is a patient, should provide answers and accurate answers.  She notes that otherwise they cannot trace potential contacts, and additional lives are needlessly placed at risk. Any information shared with the contact tracer is confidential. The identification of contacts is also confidential.

 

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New Fairfield students to return to in person learning soon

New Fairfield students will return to in person learning soon.  In a letter to families, Superintendent Pat Cosentino said that pre-school through fifth-grade students will attend school in person full-time beginning Monday.  Students in grades 6-12 will be on a hybrid schedule through December 23rd.  The cohorts will alternate in-person schooling on Wednesdays.  The district moved to remote learning when, like many others in the area, they ran into staffing shortages due to teacher quarantines.  New Fairfield parents can opt to remain in distance learning through the New Year, but need to contact the nurse or principal at their child’s school.

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Ridgefield High School cancels midterm exams

Ridgefield High School administrators have decided to cancel midterm exams.  In a letter to families, Principal Jacob Greenwood said they decided that high stakes exams are not in the best interests of students in this environment.  There have been a number of disruptions to the academic year at Ridgefield High School.  Greenwood says it's also challenging to administer these types of summative assessments in a hybrid environment and felt it would be better to regain some lost instructional time.  Ridgefield High School students are still in a hybrid model. 

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Bethel on track to return to some in-person learning next week

Plans are moving ahead as scheduled in Bethel for students to return to in-person learning.  Superintendent Christine Carver says health officials determined it was safe for students to return to the buildings on Monday.  Students went to remote learning for two weeks due to staff shortages and community exposure of COVID-19.  Berry and Rockwell elementary school students will participate in full in-person learning while Johnson, middle and high school students will be on a hybrid schedule through to Christmas break.  Carver says this will maximize their ability to socially distance students.

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Bethel COVID cases increase

Bethel's rate of new cases has risen over the past month from 12 per day per 100,000 population to over 53 in the last update.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says the most significant single factor in these new cases is small get-togethers. He says some of the November surge may be related to Halloween activities.  Knickerbocker added that with many people traveling this past Thanksgiving weekend, health care professionals are bracing for an even bigger surge over the next few weeks.  He is asking the community to be extra diligent this holiday season.

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Danbury bodega owners charged in alleged illegal gambling operation

Two Danbury men has been arrested for their role in an alleged illegal gambling operation. 

State Police charged 41-year old Nilo Espinal and 43-year old Cesar Vasquez illegal professional gambling, illegal possession of gambling devices and illegal operation of a gambling premises.  The State Police Organized Crime Task Force has been investigating multiple bodegas throughout Connecticut operating under the organized direction of several individuals. 

The arrests were made late last month, though search warrants were executed at Torres Grocery on Wildman Street and Pollas Supermarket on Main Street in February.  Troopers had a confidential informant complete a number of controlled gambling wagers. 

The pair were released on bond for appearances in Danbury Superior Court on January 5th. 

During the search of Torres Grocery, police found more than $74,000 in cash rubber banded together with names and amounts written on torn pieces of paper--“pay-outs” from winnings.  According to the arrest warrant, Espinal told police the money for was a program he initiated with residents who frequent his store.  From Pollas Supermarket, police seized a shotgun, multiple passports, ledgers documenting what is believed to be evidence of loan sharking and $192,476 in US currency.

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New Milford holding three pop up COVID-19 test events

New Milford will be holding three pop up COVID-19 test events this week and next.  The first session is tomorrow at New Milford High School from 3pm to 7pm.  The next will be held on Friday at the Pettibone Community Center from 1pm to 4pm.  There will also be a test event on Monday at Pettibone from 9am to noon.  The state is conducting the testing and it's being done on a first come, first served basis.  New Milford Emergency Operations Director Jim Ferlow says the limit for the high school testing will be between 200 and 225 tests.  At the town Pettibone sessions, they'll be able to test between 100 and 115 patients.

 

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Danbury Health Department receives grant to hire part time help

The Danbury Department of Public Health has been stressed by COVID-19 case work.  But the Acting Director applied for and has been awarded grant funding to bulk up the staff.  There are temporary part time employees helping out with contact tracing, vaccinations and other work.  There is also a volunteer pool the department can tap.  Danbury is still looking to hire more part time contact tracers.  That information can be found on the City's website.

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Redding records more COVID-19 cases in Oct. and Nov. than the previous 8 months combined

COVID-19 cases in Redding are now increasing at a rate that First Selectman Julia Pemberton says is of great concern.  Through September 1st, Redding's total cases numbered 80. In the month of November alone the town had 67 new cases.  In two months, Redding has had more cases than the prior 8 months combined. Statewide and locally, testing over the holiday was significantly reduced and Pemberton says new reported cases are likely suppressed. In the coming week, as testing increases again, she anticipates continued jumps in cases.

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Danbury Police raise $3500 to help cancer patients

The Danbury Police Department is thanking community members who donated to the "No Shave November" event hosted by Circle of Care. Police Departments across Connecticut raised nearly $30,000 which they say will make a huge difference in the lives of families facing a pediatric cancer diagnosis.  The Danbury team raised more than 35-hundred dollars toward that effort.

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Collapsed drain pipe causes problem at Monroe road construction site

A road construction project in Monroe is causing some concerns.  First Selectman Ken Kellogg says town officials were onsite inspecting Pepper Street yesterday.  There was a collapse of a drainage pipe, which is being addressed.  He's been working with the Town's contractor in preparation for the winter shutdown and learned that the status of the road is because of the work being done by contractors of the utility companies, not the Town. 

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Hearing to be held on proposed medical marijuana dispensary, Shake Shack drive thru

The Danbury Planning Commission is slated to take up two big items at their meeting tonight. 

One is an application for special exception to put a Medical Marijuana Dispensing Facility on the City's Westside.  The other is a revised site plan for a previously approved Shake Shack, which could allow for a drive thru pick up window. 

Attorney Tom Beecher said at the time of the first approval that this restaurant and another would break up the landscape of a parking lot.  He said it could also improve stormwater flows in an area which routinely floods. 

The owners of the D&B Wellness/Compassionate Care Center in Bethel, which opened six years ago, is looking to relocate to 105 Mill Plain Road, a former bank building which most recently was a yoga studio.  D&B Wellness has reportedly outgrown their Garella Road location in Bethel, Fairfield County’s first medical marijuana dispensary. 

Tonight's Danbury Planning Commission meeting is virtual and starts at 7:30pm.

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Brookfield seeks volunteers with medical backgrounds to administer COVID-19 vaccines

The Brookfield Health Department  is seeking licensed active and retired nurses, other healthcare providers and EMTs qualified to give injections who would be willing to volunteer their services in providing vaccinations against COVID-19.  The task force is planning the first groups of people to receive the vaccine--those would be the Critical Work force and those at high risk for contracting the disease. Vaccinations could start as early as the end of this month and extend into Spring.  Anyone who can volunteer the needed services is asked to call the Brookfield Health Department.

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Virtual COVID-19 Task Force presentation planned in Ridgefield

A virtual COVID-19 Task Force presentation is planned in Ridgefield.  First Selectman Rudy Marconi says all residents are invited to hear a town update on Thursday, at 7pm.  The presentation will include data up to 4pm that day. Remarks will be made by Task Force members which include scientists, doctors, communications specialists as well as Town Health Director Ed Briggs, School Superintendent Susie Da Silva and Marconi. Questions may be sent in advance or during the presentation to: pio@ridgefieldct.org.  Once residents register, they will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the Zoom webinar.

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UNIT helping to relocate homeless couple found living in tent on city property

Responding to a concern of a tent and possible homeless persons living on Danbury city property, the Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team visited the location. Initially, the person was not there, but he was located nearby.  UNIT said in a report to the City Council Tuesday that the man and his significant other are homeless, and learned they can often be found panhandling off of exit ramps and shopping plazas.  UNIT says they have been ticketed for those actions in the past.  Director Shawn Stillman has been working to get them housed in Super 8, which has been acting as the City's homeless shelter since the pandemic hit in March. In the meantime, the couple was advised to clean the area where they are living, and they did, but will be expected to leave the property soon.

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Two accidents on Route 39 under investigation

Two Thanksgiving Day accidents on Route 39 are under investigation.  The first happened in New Fairfield shortly after noon.  A car operated by a teenager couldn't navigate the corner near Shortwoods Road, the driver lost control and struck a metal beam guardrail.  The 17-year old was uninjured but the car had to be towed. That evening, a rollover accident was reported on Route 39 in Sherman.  The 65-year old New Milford man was headed south, the pickup truck veered off the road, up a hill and overturned near the intersection of Crawford Lane.  The driver was extricated, but uninjured.  The truck was towed from the scene.

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Southbury Police modify toy drive

Though the traditional Southbury Police Toy Drive will not be held at the Southbury Plaza shopping center this year it is still going on.  Anyone who wants to donate can do so online through the southburypoliceassociation.  The collection effort runs through Monday.  The NON-CLOTHING items most in need include legos, cars and trucks, board games, picture books for young children, and chapter books for older children, art and school supplies and blankets.  Toys can be dropped off at the Southbury Police Department, Monday through Friday from 7:30 AM to 2:30 PM. 

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Sherman Volunteer Fire pancake breakfast with Santa cancelled, swapped for tour of town

On December 13th, at noon, Santa will start his tour of Sherman.  The Volunteer Fire Department is unable to host a pancake breakfast this year, so they say Santa will instead saddle up on a fire truck and enjoy a leisurely Sunday drive. 

In addition to several planned stops around town he will pull over for children waiting for him on his route.   Social distancing guidelines and staying only with the household is recommended.  Their first stop will be at the Sherman school, taking Route 37 to Hubble Mountain Road, Atchison Cove and back out Holiday Point.  After passing through the center of town, the fire truck will stop at clubhouse at Deer Run Shores, then continue along to Leach Hollow.  

Next up is a stop at the Lake Mauweehoo Club House where he'll start his trek back North to Route 39 and onto Anderson Road where he'll make another stop at the intersection with Smoke Ridge, Anderson East and onto Route 55 and back to 39 with a brief stop at Wimmisink Preserve.   

They'll make one last stop at Happy Acres Farm and then finish the loop along Taber Road to Spring Lake Road and finally returning to the firehouse. 

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Easton Police new hours for fingerprinting services

The Easton Police Department has new hours for fingerprinting services. To better serve the community's schedule, the hours will be Tuesdays, 3:30 PM to 9:30 PM and Thursdays, 8:30 AM to 3:30 PM. An appointment will be needed for gun permits, Board of Education employment, and Town of Easton Employment. The fingerprinting area will be clean and sanitized between each scheduled appointment.

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Bethel seeks info from residents about Eversource summer storm response

Bethel Emergency Management officials are calling on residents to help them with the case against Eversource and the utility's response to Tropical Storm Isaias.  The EOC is looking for any communication, screenshot or email residents may have received from Eversource on or about Thursday August 6th that said power would be restored by around 4:15pm that day.  The information can be emailed to eoc@bethel-ct.gov.

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HRRA Recycling Billboard Contest underway

The 14th Annual Housatonic Resources Recovery Authority Recycling Billboard Contest is underway. The theme this year is Recycle Right.  Students in kindergarten through 12th grade can pick up the template at Redding Town Hall. There is a box to the left of the front door. Artwork is due December 18th.  There are other drop off locations in other HRRA towns.

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New American Dream Foundation delivers 650 Thanksgiving meals to seniors

Last month The New American Dream Foundation partnered with the Redding and Ridgefield chapters of the National Charity League to serve 650 meals to seniors living in 8 affordable housing communities in Danbury.  On Thanksgiving weekend, volunteers served holiday meals along with handmade holiday cards crafted by members of the Ridgefield NCL – Nutmeg Chapter.  The meals were  purchased from the Amber Room Colonnade at cost.  Since October, the New American Dream Foundation has received community grants for their Covid-Hot Meal Program from the Connecticut Health Foundation, PepsiCo, and Robydodd Family Charitable Foundation.

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Danbury volunteer firefighters to mark the holidays

The Danbury Volunteer Fire Department companies will be doing a toy drive for Family and Children’s Aid this month. With light parades coming up, many companies will be participating, but Company 14 voted to forgo buying lights, and instead put that money toward assisting a local family in need. Battalions 19 and 31 will be offering “COVID Friendly” Santa runs during the holiday season.

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Nonprofit arts organizations receive $9 million in grants

154 nonprofit arts organizations in Connecticut will be receiving $9 million in grants to provide support to the arts community amid the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  Among the recipients are Brookfield Craft Center, Ridgefield Playhouse, Sherman Chamber Ensemble, Danbury Music Centre and Village Center for the Arts in New Milford.  Qualifying organizations receive a base grant of 5-thousand dollars. For organizations that have raised funds between March 10th and November 1st, the program will offer a supplemental 50-percent match. The program uses federal CARES Act funding from the state’s Coronavirus Relief Fund.

1214 Foundation (aka NewArts), Newtown, $11,700

ACT of Connecticut, Ridgefield, $221,000

Arts Escape, Southbury, $6,800

ASAP!, Washington Depot, $52,100

Brookfield Craft Center, Brookfield, $43,200

Connecticut Hurricanes Drum & Bugle Corps, Seymour, $11,300

Danbury Music Centre, Danbury, $38,000

Music on the Hill, Wilton, $13,200

Pilobolus, Washington Depot, $97,300

Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance, Ridgefield, $30,400

Ridgefield Guild of Artists, Ridgefield, $14,300

Ridgefield Playhouse for Movies and the Performing Arts, Ridgefield, $186,400

Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra, Ridgefield, $25,000

Ridgefield Workshop for the Performing Arts (aka Ridgefield Theater Barn), Ridgefield,  $16,300

Sherman Chamber Ensemble, New Milford, $8,600

Sherman Players, Sherman, $6,300

Thrown Stone Theatre Company, Ridgefield, $5,900

Village Center for the Arts, New Milford, $16,600

Western Connecticut Youth Orchestra, Ridgefield, $14,900

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New Fairfield officials resolve dispatchers union grievance

New Fairfield officials have resolved a dispatchers union grievance.  The Board of Selectmen approved a stipend if the town assigns an employee as lead 911 dispatcher in a Memorandum of Understanding with  Teamsters Local 677.  The lead dispatcher will receive a paid premium of $2 per hour, in addition to the employee’s regular hourly rate for all hours worked in the new capacity.  When the lead dispatcher is on vacation or away from work for a week or more, his or her designee will receive the paid premium. These payments are in lieu of, and supersede, any prior stipends or wage adjustments provided for an employee assigned as lead dispatcher”.

 

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COVID-19 cases in Redding continue to rise sharply

The COVID-19 cases in Redding have continued to rise sharply. This is in step with the case numbers throughout most of Connecticut and the country. Redding’s positive case numbers have risen from 9 in September, to 16 cases in October, and now 42 in November.  The total number of cases is 161. In Connecticut the age group of 20-29 years old has the most positive cases. Results for the PCR test usually takes 2-5 days. While waiting for test results, Redding Health officials ask residents to stay home to prevent possible spread. The antigen test provides quicker results, but it’s less sensitive and can come back with false negatives and positives. The antigen test works best on people with symptoms to confirm if it's COVID-19. When someone tests positive with an antigen test and has no symptoms, they will be asked to get a PCR test.

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Danbury man, youth charged following crash involving stolen car

State police are investigating a crash involving a stolen car.  A 20-year old Danbury man and a juvenile were arrested on Sunday evening.  State Police responded to a report of a single car crash on I-84 in the area of exit 3 and found the vehicle unoccupied, with heavy passenger side damage.  State police say they spotted two people running on the off ramp and determined that they were the occupants.  Stephen Felax and the juvenile were charged with larceny and interfering with an officer.  The youth was released to a guardian while Felax was held on bond. 

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Women's Center of Greater Danbury modifies holiday giving program

The Women's Center of Greater Danbury has a holiday giving program.  Officials say one of the greatest gifts they can give their clients is empowering them to do their own holiday shopping for their family.  The Women's Center is asking donor to purchase a gift for the parent, from a supplied list, along with the requested store gift card they can use to shop for their children.  There are families of various sizes and age ranges.  The Women's Center will match donors, based on desired level of giving.  Parent gifts and gift cards can be dropped off at the Women's Center between 10am and 2pm on December 9th or 10th.  A safe and socially distanced drop off will be set up. 

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Putnam County Sheriff cautioning residents of 'Porch Pirating'

Putnam County Sheriff Robert Langley is cautioning residents that as you wait for your holiday packages to be delivered, there is an increase of packages being stolen from front porches, also known as “Porch Pirating.”  The thieves walk or drive around neighborhoods looking for unattended, delivered packages that are left in front of houses. They grab the package and leave before being spotted.  The Sheriff's Office suggests several steps to take if you won't be home at that time of delivery.  That includes having packages delivered to the office, installing security cameras, requiring signature on delivery place a vacation hold or sign up for delivery alerts.  Anyone who sees something or someone acting suspicious in the neighborhood, is asked to call the Putnam County Sheriff's Office at 845-225-4300.

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