Local Headlines Archives for 2021-02

Congresswoman reintroduces Clean School Bus Act

5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes has reintroduced the Clean School Bus Act.  The new program would provide $1 billion dollars over 5 years to replace diesel school buses with electric ones. School buses are the nation’s largest form of mass transit. Hayes says electric buses not only reduce dangerous air pollution for those riding them, but also for the cars driving behind a school bus.

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Congressman chairs committee hearing on January insurrection at Capitol

4th District Congressman Jim Himes chaired a hearing this week about the January 6th attack at the Capitol. The Subcommittee on National Security, International Development, and Monetary Policy was looking into what Himes called the latest example of domestic terrorist activities that have been escalating in frequency and intensity in recent years. The hearing specifically looked at the ways in which domestic terrorist groups and individuals raise funds such as crowdfunding, steaming and subscription services, false charities, and cryptocurrencies.

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Red Cross holds preparedness classes for families

The American Red Cross has partnered with Independence Northwest and Western Connecticut Association for Human Rights (WeCAHR) on a series of virtual classes to prepare families for emergencies.  The preparedness classes were offered virtually throughout the month.   One class was called Prepare with Pedro and aimed at children ages 5 to 7.  The Pillowcase Project was geared toward children 8 to 12 years old.  The Be Red Cross Ready was for older children and adults. 

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Danbury Police warn about catalytic converter thefts

Danbury Police are warning that catalytic converter thefts are on the rise across the region.  The critical component of a car's exhaust system contains expensive metals, has a street value up to $250 and takes less than a minute to remove making it attractive to thieves.  It can cost up to $4,000 to replace a catalytic converter.  Danbury Police are offering some theft prevention tips including having it welded to the car frame, installing a car alarm or having the VIN engraved on the converter.

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New Fairfield Social Services remind residents of wellbeing assistance

New Fairfield Social Services officials are offering some information about free community support and outreach services in response to the public health crisis.  COVID-19 Assistance for Community Health, or COACH, is paid fro through a FEMA grant.  The crisis counselors' provide psychological first aid and emotional support by assisting individuals and families in accessing a broad range of services and/or resources.  COACH support staff offer help with general wellbeing, housing and homelessness resources, faith and community based support, resources for older adults and food resources.  Connecticut residents seeking assistance from COACH can also call 2-1-1 and ask to be directed to a “FEMA COACH” to connect to resources in their community.

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Fairfield County's Giving Day raises over $2.25 million

Fairfield County's Giving Day yesterday brought in record-breaking generosity benefiting hundreds of nonprofits.  More than $2.25 million was raised by 15,000 donors for the nearly 400 organizations that were signed up.  Fairfield County's Community Foundation hosts the region's biggest philanthropic event, now in its eighth year.  Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue brought in about $200 during Giving Day.  The fire company had to cancel last year's big fundraisers--LobsterFest, Craft Beer Festival and Food Truck Festival due to the pandemic.  While they had a successful mailing event, golf tournament and Christmas Tree Sale, they still lost a lot of fundraising dollars last year.

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Newtown officials to study ban on open carry of firearms on town property

The Newtown Legislative Council has voted to send a proposal to the Ordinance Committee for review, which would ban the open carry of firearms on town property.  The vote last week was was 7-5.  Some opponents say open carry firearms restrictions should be regulated by the state.  Proponents say seeing a gun on a stranger evokes more trauma or heightened feelings because of the 12-14 tragedy.  If intimidation is an issue, opponents say that's a matter for the Newtown Police Department.  Similar local initiatives in other states failed because those states preempted towns from regulating firearms. Connecticut municipalities have only the authority the state has given them by law and there are no laws that preempt regulation by local authority.

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Agreement reached on contruction of Norwalk River Valley trail final leg

The town of Wilton, the City of Norwalk and Friends of the Norwalk River Valley Trail will oversee construction and maintenance of the planned 30 mile recreational path from Calf Pasture Beach to Danbury.  The nonprofit secured a $1.1 million trail improvement grant through the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to cover 80-percent of the cost for the final leg, between Wilton and Norwalk.  The nonprofit will cover the 20-percent local match.  The project is slated to break ground this spring.

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Ridgefield needs to move up annual town meetng on budget to give more time for voting

A Special Town Meeting is being held in Ridgefield next week to move the annual town budget meeting date.  Some residents can attend the meeting in person, in a tent outside the Ridgefield Playhouse on March 3rd. 

The budget adoption date for the Fiscal Year 2022 Annual Town Budget meeting needs to be moved to April 24th instead of May 3rd, allowing more time for absentee voting for the Budget Referendum on May 11th. The April 24th meeting will be from from 3pm-5 pm. 

The meeting this coming Wednesday to set that April date is at 7:30pm.  100 people maximum can attend in person.  A Zoom meeting will be held for those who want to attend virtually.  Registration is required no later than this coming Tuesday, for elector verification.

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Two families displaced, one person burned in Danbury condo fire

A Danbury resident was hospitalized with burns after a fire on Deer Hill Avenue Wednesday night.  Firefighters responded to the area near Wooster Street shortly before midnight, flagged down by a neighbor.  A second alarm was signaled to bring in additional crews to battle heavy fire conditions on the 3rd and 4th floors of the condo unit.  Fire was also extending into the attic.  The single occupant was able to self-evacuate, but is being evaluated for burns sustained prior to the arrival of the fire department.  The occupant’s pets were located and place under the care of a neighbor.  Unaffected units were able to be re-occupied.  The Red Cross is working with occupants of two units that were untenable. The Fire Marshal’s Office is in the process of investigating the cause of the fire.

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Danbury Public School District prioritizing school staff for COVID-19 vaccines

The Danbury Public School District is prioritizing which school staff will be eligible for the first round of COVID-19 vaccines.  Administrators are going through staff rolls and are loading names into the Vaccine Administration Management System, the CDC VAMS portal that Connecticut is using for a majority of the distribution.  Staffers will then receive an email from the CDC with instructions to make an appointment.  Danbury has more than 17-hundred employees and is the largest school district in the state.  Danbury will start with staffers who are in the buildings, working with students.  Those who are working remotely and don't have contact with students will be entered later this month.

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Southbury man dies of injuries sustained in car crash

State Police say a Southbury man has died of injuries sustained in a car crash this week.  Emergency responders were called to East Hill Road near East Meadow Road on Tuesday afternoon on a report of an accident.  The driver, later determined to be 88-year-old Charles Hakli, was headed west when his car left the roadway and struck a tree.  Police say there was extensive damage to the driver-side front end, with multiple airbag deployment.  Hakli was found unconscious in the driver’s seat and was later  pronounced dead at the hospital.  The crash remains under investigation.

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Two people injured in head-on collision in Bethel

Two people were injured in a head-on collision in Bethel Wednesday night.  Stony Hill Volunteer Fire Company responded to a report of a rollover accident with entrapment on the southern end of Old Hawleyville Road around 6:15pm. One of the vehicles was on its drivers side with the occupant still inside. Members stabilized the car and cut the roof with the Jaws of Life tool, freeing the driver within 10 minutes.  Two people sustained non-life threatening injuries. The accident is under investigation by the Bethel Police Department.

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Paid Family Medical Leave withholdings due to state starting next month

A grace period is being offered to employers by the new Connecticut Paid Family Medical Leave Program to collect contributions from employees.  Paid Leave Authority Director Anrdrea Barton Reeves says about half of Connecticut businesses had registered with the Authority to let them know they are aware of their obligation. 

The withheld monies are due at end of March, with a 30 day grace period.  A number of employers have not registered, but have started collecting the remittance, but they need to do both. 

Employers who haven't yet registered can't go back to their employees for the monies due to the Authority, the business will be responsible. 

Connecticut’s new paid family and medical leave law began on January 1st, with residents eligible for up to 12 weeks of income replacement starting next year.  Half of one percent of wages are being collected from employees 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 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.

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Fairfield County's Giving Day today

Now in its 8th year, Fairfield County's Giving Day is being held today.  Nonprofits and other organizations are seeking donations during the region's biggest philanthropic event.  Among those asking donors to step up to fill various needs are Greater Danbury area libraries, land trusts, arts organizations, mental health groups, those addressing food insecurity and the Women's Center.  Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue says every dollar donated to their department will be used for equipment, apparatus, maintenance, training, and the like.  The one-day, regional effort harnesses the collective power of individuals, businesses, and others to transform how people think about, talk about and participate in giving.

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Boughton officially confirmed as DRS Commissioner

The state House has approved former Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton as head of the Department of Revenue Services.  He's been filling the role for months, but the appointment was made official yesterday.  Boughton resigned as mayor in December from an unprecedented 10 terms.  Boughton said at the time that he had already decided not to run for an 11th term when Governor Ned Lamont offered him the job.

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Free overdose prevention training webinar scheduled

A free overdose prevention training webinar is being hosted next month by the Western Connecticut Coalition.  All training sessions include discussion of risk factors and prevention strategies, signs and symptoms of overdose, and how to obtain and administer naloxone.  The medication, also called Narcan, reverses an opioid overdose.  The training session also covers the Good Samaritan Law and available treatment and support resources.  Registration is required for the March 16th session, which is from 10am to 11:30am.

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Free QPR Suicide Prevention Webinar Trainings scheduled

Two free QPR Suicide Prevention Webinar Training and Certification sessions are being held next month by the Western Connecticut Coalition.  Participants under the age of 18 should be accompanied by an adult for the evidence-based suicide prevention program called Question, Persuade, Refer.  It teaches three steps to save a life: Recognize Signs, Offer Help, and Connect to Resources.  The sessions are March 12th and March 26th from 11am to 12:30pm.  Registration is required.

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Ridgefield Library to host virtual seminar about COVID-19 vaccine

Ridgefield Library will host a virtual seminar tomorrow afternoon about the COVID-19 Vaccine: How it Works and How to Get an appointment in Connecticut. This discussion will cover the science behind the vaccine including how it protects against COVID-19 and the emerging variants; an overview of the vaccine roll out operation; and helpful information on getting an appointment.  This presentation will help explain how the vaccination distribution is presently working and the resources available for those who need help. There will be time for questions and answers.  Attendees must register online through the Library website for tomorrow's 1pm seminar.

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Kent COVID-19 testing site to remain open through mid-March

The COVID-19 testing site at the Kent Transfer Station has tested over 2,100 people so far.  The site, which operates on Mondays from 3pm to 7pm, will stay open through at least March 15th.  First Selectman Jean Speck says outside of small clusters at the schools, the town's numbers continue to be very low.  Around Thanksgiving Kent's test positivity rate was about 28-percent.  There was a spike around Christmas attributed to an uptick at South Kent School.  Cases fell significantly in January to about 10-percent.  Two more school outbreaks brought the numbers back up, but this month Kent's test positivity was hovering around 5 percent.

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Brookfield residents approve Phase 4 of Streetscape Project

Brookfield residents have approved Phase 4 of the Streetscape Project.  A Special Town Meeting was held Tuesday night about revitalization of the Town Center District.  Brookfield residents were able to attend the meeting in person in the high school auditorium, with social distancing mandates.  Economic development manager Greg Dembowski outlined funding and cost estimates, conceptual design, and a timeline for the fourth phase, the longest and most costly.  A state grant will cover 87 percent of the cost, or $3.1 million.  The town will contribute around $450,000.  It involves over 1900 feet of sidewalk, bus shelters, five retaining walls, and fill of gullies. Two phases are complete, the 3rd and 5th are slated for construction this year.

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Nuvance Health appoints new Chief Medical Officer

Nuvance Health has appointed Jeffrey Nicastro as Chief Medical Officer.  He's been serving in the interim role for the past six months while continuing to serve as the Network Chair of Surgery.  Dr Nicastro was the first Network Chair of Surgery, bringing with him more than thirty years of clinical, leadership and military experience.  In his new role, Nicastro will have primary responsibility for continuing to shape the culture and delivery of care for the system.  Nicastro will work with the more than 3,000-member medical staff and will have direct responsibility for managing the Network Chairs as well as Nuvance's Heart, Cancer and Neuroscience clinical leaders to advance and grow clinical services.  He will provide oversight for medical affairs standardization, Medical Education, Global Health, Simulation, Research & Innovation and the development of a new teaching academy for physicians to be named in honor of his predecessor, the late Dr. Patricia Tietjen.

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New Fairfield Selectmen send budget to Board of Finance

The New Fairfield Board of Selectmen has adopted a proposed $12.9 million budget for the coming fiscal year.  The proposal would increase spending by 5.43 percent, or $816,000 more than the current year. 

The proposal has been sent to the New Fairfield Board of Finance. 

Non-payroll expenditures make up little more than half of the budget and salaries account for about 37 percent.  First Selectman Pat Del Monaco says there are holes in the current year budget for expenses they did not budget for, but this year for example road repair was included in the operation budget. 

The town funded portions of the current budget from other sources last year, other than taxpayer dollars. 

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Brotherhood-In-Action of Bethel to hold drive-through food collection event

Brotherhood-In-Action of Bethel is hosting a drive-through food collection event on Saturday March 13 from 9am to noon.  The organization says their cupboards are pretty bare because of extra delivery days they've run this year, and the inability to run normal food collection drives.  Brootherhood-In-Action is starting to think about the upcoming Easter delivery and asking that people donate non-perishable goods at the upcoming drive-through food collection.  Donors should enter the parking lot from the Greenwood Avenue entrance next to Bethel United Methodist Church, where volunteers will then unload donations in order to limit social interaction.  Donors will then exit the parking lot via School Street.

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Danbury PTO to host budget presentation meeting

Danbury Citywide PTO is hosting a presentation on Monday about the proposed school budget.  The School district's Director of Finance and Operations will deliver remarks on the 2021-2022 School budget, which has been sent to Mayor Joe Cavo.  The Zoom presentation is at 6:30pm on Monday. 
 

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Putnam County Police Review Panel releases report

After months of meetings with community members, the Putnam County Police Review Panel has released a report.  The panel was established last summer in  response to an order from the Governor requiring each of the 500 jurisdictions with police departments in New York state to develop a police reform plan by April 1st. 

The Putnam County group's findings and recommendations were included in a report entitled the “Police Policy Comprehensive Review” up for a public hearing last week.  The 21- member Police Review Panel is chaired by County Executive MaryEllen Odell.  A special meeting of the Putnam County Legislature has been scheduled for next Thursday to consider the plan. 

The report can be found online at putnamcountyny.com/policereviewpanel. The public can submit comments on the report via the website or by email to policereviewpanel@putnamcountyny.gov

The Putnam County panel has met regularly since September and invited the participation of Putnam County residents, particularly those in community and cultural diversity groups, people of color, the Latino and LGBTQIA communities, faith-based groups, veteran’s organizations, schools and mental health consumers.

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Danbury man arrested for alleged drug sales

A Danbury man has been arrested for various drug offenses after a weeks long investigation.  Police received multiple complaints about Jovanny Gutierrez selling illicit drugs from his car. Investigators set up surveillance at his Hawthorne Cove Road home yesterday and followed the 39-year old as he drove to a local shopping center. 

After watching him engage in a suspected drug transaction with a man waiting in the parking lot, investigators approached the two and placed them into custody.  A substantial amount of U.S. currency and Rx opioids were found in Gutierrez’s car and residence, all of which were seized as evidence. 

Gutierrez was held for a $100,000 bond on charges of Possession of a Controlled Substance, Possession with Intent to Sell, and Sale of a Controlled Substance.  36-year old Sopha Meng of Danbury was charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance and released from the police department for a written promise to appear in court at a later date

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Father, son sentenced for defrauding state ACA programs of $27 million

Two California residents have been sentenced for defrauding Affordable Care Act programs in at least 12 states of more than $27 million.  63-year old Jeffery White was sentenced to three years in jail and 35-year old Nicholas White was sentenced to 13 months in jail. 

The father and son conspired to defraud health care plans by fraudulently enrolling individuals in ACA plans in states where the individuals did not live by creating phony residential leases using fictitious landlords in various states, including locations in Danbury, Farmington, Hartford and Norwalk.  They also used an app to obtain false cell phone numbers for the individuals with area codes that made it appear they lived at the fictitious addresses, but, the call would ring through to a phone controlled by the Whites. 

The individuals were placed in expensive residential substance abuse treatment programs in California, which paid the Whites thousands of dollars in kickbacks for each referral, and some programs arranged for the Whites to receive a percentage of the money the treatment programs received from the ACA health insurance plans.  In order to maximize their proceeds from the fraud scheme, the Whites enrolled the individuals in ACA plans in states that paid the highest amount for substance abuse treatment, even though the individuals did not live in those states. 

Although the Whites personally profited approximately $1 million through this scheme, they were ordered to pay restitution in the approximate amount of $27,617,000.  Jeffrey and Nicholas White, who are released on bond, are required to report to prison on August 24 and May 5, respectively.

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Biden administration withdraws from transgender athlete case

The Biden administration has withdrawn government support for a federal lawsuit in Connecticut that seeks to ban transgender athletes from participating in girls’ high school sports.

Connecticut allows high school athletes to compete in sports according to their gender identity. The lawsuit was filed a year ago by several cisgender runners, including one from Danbury, who argue they have been deprived of wins, state titles and athletic opportunities by being forced to compete against two transgender sprinters.

The Justice Department and the Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights withdrew their support for the case ahead of a hearing scheduled for Friday on a motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

The Trump administration’s intervention in the case last year came as state legislatures around the country debated restricting transgender athletes’ participation to their gender assigned at birth. Seventeen states considered such legislation, and Idaho passed a law. The Republican-controlled Mississippi legislature overwhelmingly approved a similar bill earlier this month.

Supporters of restrictions on transgender athletes argue that transgender girls, because they were born male, are naturally stronger, faster and bigger than those born female.

Last March, then-Attorney General William Barr signed what is known as a statement of interest in the Connecticut lawsuit, arguing the state’s policy runs afoul of Title IX, the federal law that allows girls equal educational opportunities, including in athletics.

In a filing Tuesday, Connecticut U.S. Attorney John Durham and other department officials withdrew Barr’s statement, saying, “The government has reconsidered the matter.”

Attorneys for the plaintiffs declined to comment.

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference has said it is following a state law that requires all high school students be treated according to their gender identity.

The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights last spring and summer sent letters threatening to cut off some federal funding to Connecticut school districts that followed the policy.

On Tuesday, the office notified those involved that it was withdrawing those letters “as well as the underlying findings and determinations,” and does not wish to become a party in the lawsuit.

On his first day in office, President Joe Biden signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in school sports and elsewhere. Former president Donald Trump had rolled back protections for transgender people while in office.

Dan Barrett, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union of Connecticut, which represents the two transgender athletes in the lawsuit, said Tuesday’s action represents “a hint that the government, the Department of Education, may now have a different view of Title IX.”

CIAC executive director Glenn Lungarini has said the organization’s transgender policy was formed with federal and state guidance and that multiple courts and federal agencies, including the Justice Department, had previously acknowledged that the term “sex” in Title IX is ambiguous.

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong said Tuesday he was pleased with the Justice Department’s decision to withdraw Barr’s statement.

“Transgender girls are girls and every woman and girl deserves protection against discrimination. Period,” he said in a statement.

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Redding top open municipal COVID-19 vaccine clinic

Just over 11-percent of Redding residents have received at least first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.  First Selectman Julia Pemberton notes that the data lags by a week so the percentage is likely much higher. 

Connecticut is getting more doses from the federal government so more people are going to soon be able to get a shot at a municipal clinic, without having to navigate the VAMS portal. 

Redding has been working with Bethel at a clinic set up in Bethel for residents of both towns.  Starting this weekend, there will be a clinic at the Redding Community Center.  About 120 doses will be given to Redding residents, by appointment only.  Volunteers are calling each resident who pre-registered with the town. 

Residents can still go through VAMS and chose to be vaccinated at any available site. Pemberton says she knows some people have had difficulty with the VAMS portal, but notes that Social Services has been working with people to find clinics if they don't want to wait for a Redding clinic.

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Putnam County missed shipment of COVID-19 vaccine last week due to winter weather elsewhere

Because of inclement weather throughout the nation, Putnam County did not receive its shipment of Moderna COVID-19 vaccine last week.  On Monday,  the county received a shipment of 500 doses.  Of those, 200 will be used for people who were due for second doses on February 18th and those scheduled for second doses on February 25th.  100 doses will be administered to those with developmental disabilities, as required by the state; and the remaining 200 will go to essential workers and those with certain underlying medical conditions.  Residents who received their first vaccine from the Putnam County Department of Health on January 21 or January 28, should continue to check their email for instructions on scheduling a second dose appointment.

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PPP loans opening exclusively for 'mom & pop' businesses

Danbury economic development officials are alerting local companies that starting today, at 9am, the U.S. Small Business Administration will open a 14-day, exclusive PPP loan application period for businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 20 employees. Self-employed and sole proprietors can now use gross income (versus net income) to calculate the PPP loan amount, increasing potential loan size.  Business owners behind on their federal student loan payments are now eligible for PPP loan forgiveness.

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COVID testing set up in New Milford

Free COVID-19 testing is coming back to New Milford.  A new testing session will be held at Pettibone Community Center on Saturday from 3pm to 7pm. This is in partnership with the State and is being offered on a first come, first served basis.

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Redding COVID-19 cases declining, vaccine appointments increasing

The data for the first two weeks of February indicate the rate of COVID-19 cases per 100,000 in Redding at 7.8, which is much lower than the 58 per 100,000 experienced in mid-January.  Redding’s most recent average positivity rate is 1.8 percent, compared to 5.9 percent.  

Even with this favorable news, Redding officials urge residents to continue to wear a mask and social distance from others because COVID variants have been identified in the state and are still an issue.

Redding Health officials say volunteers have been been systematically emailing and calling those who pre-registered on the Town Website to schedule an appointment for COVID-19 vaccine administration.  The town is starting to schedule first dose clinics at the Redding Community Center, matching the number of doses allotted with the number of appointments being made. 

The state Department of Public Health allots and distributes a first and second dose for each person being vaccinated.

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New Fairfield leaders heartened by vaccine schedule, remain vigilant

New Fairfield officials say it's encouraging news that all education and childcare workers who wish to be vaccinated can receive a first dose by March 31st.  More information on scheduling vaccination appointments will be sent out by Superintendent Dr. Pat Cosentino.  But First Selectman Pat Del Monaco says New Fairfield is not out of the woods yet.  There are 54 active COVID-19 cases in town and the test positivity rate is 6 percent, well above the State average.

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Skating pond in Sherman readied for use

Some families, with assistance from the Sherman Volunteer Fire Department, cleaned off the pond at Volunteer Park  and prepare its ice skating surface for use.  Although its been used a few times already this season, firefighters say this weekend was perfect weather.  The skating pond, located on Route 39 north, was built in the 1980s as an Eagle Scout project and has gone through some renovations with the help of Beatty Construction. 

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Local lawmaker reacts to Eversource CEO comments on storm response recovery

A local lawmaker is reacting to Eversource CEO James Judge telling industry analysts last week that the utility expects Connecticut regulators to eventually allow the company to recover costs related to Tropical Storm Isaias from ratepayers.  Energy Committee chair Danbury Representative David Arconti says the comments are premature and out of touch.  Arconti believes the company botched quite a few things and doesn't think it’s a sure bet that they are going to get cost recovery for that response.  PURA is investigating utility response to the August 4th storm and has not yet begun considering how much ratepayers will be required to pay for power restoration.

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Danbury opens new round of Facade Improvement Grant Program

Danbury is opening a new round of its Facade Improvement Grant Program.  Funding is being offered to businesses in the Downtown Revitalization Zone to fix up their storefronts.  Applications are now open to bolster the private development underway in CityCenter.  The applicant must have a non-residential use on the first floor that fronts or has direct access to a public street or right-of-way.  The program was launched in March 2019, awarding grants of up to $10,000, or half the total cost of the project, whichever is less. Grants are capped at $50,000 per property.

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Bethel Zoning Commission considers easing review of accessory apartments

The Bethel Planning and Zoning Commission has held a hearing on a proposed amendment to make it easier for residents to build accessory apartments.  So-called in-law flats currently require a special permit.  The proposed zoning regulation would allow for a living space rented by someone who is not the property owner by zoning permit.  Backers say this would speed up and simplify the process because of less review.  If a proposed accessory dwelling exceeds 900 square feet or modification of parking requirements, the Commission would have to review the proposal.  The hearing was closed and the Commission's next meeting is tonight at 7pm.

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Putnam County officials concerned over slow vaccine rollout

While Putnam County residents have received their first dose of vaccine at a slightly higher rate than the New York State average, County Executive MaryEllen Odell continues to push the state to address gaps in communication and information.  Odell led a regional effort with other area county executives to bring together state lawmakers and call for improved communication from the state along with the needed increase in vaccine supply. 

The percent of New York State Population receiving a first dose is 10.17 percent.  Putnam is 10.98 percent.  That compares to 11.54 percent of Westchester County and 8.31 percent in Dutchess County.

Putnam County health officials are expressing frustration with COVID-19 vaccine rollout. Last Saturday, New York State notified the Putnam County Health Department that an increased shipment of 500 first-dose vaccines would be delivered as eligibility was expanded to include people with comorbidities.  On Sunday, the state did an about face and said Putnam would receive less vaccine than previously stated at just 200 first doses.  As of Tuesday there was no notification of first dose vaccine delivery.  Vaccine tracking showed second-doses expected to arrive Tuesday were re-routed back to Kentucky, due to weather and in order to keep the vaccine at the correct temperature.  as of Tuesday, there was no shipment update for delayed second-dose vaccines. 

Despite this lack of information, Putnam County Health Department says residents will get their second dose within the appropriate timeframe. 

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Cocaine found in car pulled over for speeding

Three people have been arrested by State Police on drug related charges after their vehicle was pulled over for speeding.  State Police Troopers spotted the car speeding down I-84 westbound by exit 16 in Southbury on Sunday afternoon.  Troopers found 5.6 kilograms of cocaine partially concealed in the backseat when they searched the car.  30-year old Joao Marcelo Burgos-alvarado of Waterbury was charged with speeding and possession, 39-year old Cynthia Ivette Lacen-pellot of Puerto Rico was charged with possession, and 29-year old Maranyelis Pacheco of Waterbury was charged with possession.  Each was held on $20,000 bond.  All three are scheduled to be arraigned on May 20th. 

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Danbury Fire Department applying for two federal grants

The Danbury Fire Department is applying for two federal grants.  One is to purchase personal protective equipment for pandemic response.  The overall grant is $8,000, but does require a 10-percent share paid for by the City.  The federal grant, if awarded, would be $7,200. 

The other grant is to purchase equipment for every day operations.  The $400,000 grant requires the City to chip in 10-percent, with Danbury's share not to exceed $40,000.  The local match is available in the Fire Department's operation and capital budgets. 

The Fire Department is looking to purchase a compressor to fill SCBA air containers that firefighters wear when they enter a burning building.  Interim Fire Chief Kevin Ford says they're switching to a new SCBA system.  The older compressor is on its last legs.  If it was to fail, there is no way to fill the current bottles.  The new compressor has an OSHA requirement feature.  Every time a container is filled, it has to be logged as maintenance.  This does the recording automatically, and can complete a test required every 5 years.  The compressor is about $100,000. 

The bulk of the money would go to new extrication tools.  Newer cars have hardened steel cages that older Jaws of Life tools can't pierce through.  The new Jaws of Life doesn't don't require a hose connected to a hydraulic generator because it's battery operated, giving emergency responders more mobility. 

If there's grant money left over, Ford says they plan to buy racks for SCBA to store them in their apparatus and some parts to do maintenance.

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New Fairfield COVID-19 infection rate decreases, remains higher than other municipalities

Over the past week in New Fairfield there have been 33 new, confirmed cases of COVID-19.  The infection rate is 28 cases per 100,000 people, making the test positivity rate 5.9 percent.  New Fairfield remains in the red zone and with an infection rate in top third of all towns in the State.

The latest data from the Connecticut Department of Public Health indicates that almost 11% of New Fairfield residents of all ages have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.  Any eligible resident having difficulty navigating the VAMS registration system is asked to contact the Senior Center.  

Any New Fairfield resident over the age of 65 and medically homebound should contact the New Fairfield Health Department for vaccination information.

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Bethel CERT volunteers assisting at COVID-19 vaccine clinics

Bethel Community Emergency Response Team volunteers have been assisting at the COVID-19 vaccine clinics providing support to the operation. Bethel Emergency Management officials say their tasks include health screenings, registration, interior traffic control, and post vaccine waiting area observation.

Since the start of the year CERT members have provided over 200 hours of volunteer time in response to the Pandemic.  The Bethel-Redding COVID-19 vaccination clinic is by appointment only. 

If eligible individuals are having trouble registering online, they can call the Bethel Vaccine Infoline at 203-794-8523, or the Bethel Senior Center at 203-794-8593. The phone lines are staffed from 8am to 4pm Monday through Thursday and 8am to noon on Friday. Messages left over the weekend will be retrieved on Monday. 

Recent state figures show Bethel’s positivity rate, or the rate of new COVID infections, have declined for the third week in a row.  Bethel went from a high of almost 12 percent a month ago, now down to 5 percent.

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Brewster firefighters take part in ice rescue training

Brewster Fire Department took part in ice rescue training this weekend on Haines Pond. Ice water rescues are something they don’t do very often, but need to be prepared in the rare circumstance that it does happen.  If a person or animal falls through ice, firefighters are usually the first ones on the scene. Wearing cold water suits and using harnesses and floatation devices, firefighters trained and pulled team members out of the water.

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Bethel First Selectman calls on residents to shop local

Now that the holiday gift-giving season is over, Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker used his town update to remind residents not to forget local retailers and restaurants.  He notes that all of them have worked very hard to survive the challenges this pandemic has caused, crediting them with finding the creative new ways to serve customers. Nearly all have online ordering with curbside pickup. Some offer home delivery.  Some local restaurants have devised new take-out menus with customized offerings to better serve stay-at-home dining.

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Greater Danbury officials back proposed expansion of Open Choices program

Greater Danbury area school, municipal and state leaders came together on Friday to tout the proposed expansion of the Open Choices program, which would allow some Danbury and Norwalk students attend school in surrounding towns.  The program is in place in 42 other districts and would begin in Norwalk and Danbury for the 2022-2023 school year as part of a budget proposed by Governor Ned Lamont.

Region 9 Superintendent Rydell Harrison says Easton has been hosting Bridgeport students for more than 20 years.  He says the district has seen a benefit to adding to the diversity of thinking in the classroom.  The students matriculate to Joel Barlow High School.  Redding does not currently host students, but wants to accept those from Danbury into the program.

Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi says there's declining enrollment in surrounding towns, with room to enroll new students.  They have the same square footage and same number of teachers, so there's no reason not to accept students from Danbury across all 9 buildings in the district.  The Ridgefield Board of Education hasn't voted yet, but Marconi says they are moving in that direction.  Marconi says the Open Choice program could also be beneficial to Ridgefield, where schools have lost racial and socioeconomic diversity. He said the program would “create a much better educational environment for everyone.” 

The state pays for the cost of busing students while the host and receiving districts split school funding from the state. Additional, individualized education costs are paid for by the sending district, meaning either Danbury or Norwalk.  A per-pupil grant follows each student to the host district. Depending on how many students are accepted, the grant ranges from $3,000 to $8,000 per child.

Danbury Senator Julie Kushner says this program is needed in Danbury now more than ever because of COVID-19.  Danbury Representative Bob Godfrey says that's because the region has seen an influx of new residents from Westchester County.

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New York Troopers investigating thefts from cars at gas station pumps

A couple of cars at a Brewster area gas station were entered into recently, with valuables stolen.  New York State Police says a  black Infinity with stolen CT license plates was involved in two larcenies in early January 2021.  The victims left their vehicles momentarily unattended while with valuables inside.  Wallets and smart devices were stolen.  Troopers are reminding residents to secure their vehicle properly as they've seen an increase of larcenies from vehicles over the past year and have recently investigated larcenies from vehicles left unattended at gas station pumps.  Anyone who sees suspicious or criminal activity is asked to contact New York State Police Brewster Barracks at (845) 677-7300.

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Two people, dog extricated from car in single-vehicle accident

Two people and a dog had to be extricated from a vehicle in Redding Saturday night after a car slid off the road and down a culvert.  West Redding Volunteer Fire Department responded to Church Hill Road Saturday night and took about half an hour to free the occupants.  One person was transported to Danbury Hospital for treatment of minor injuries, one person refused transport.  The dog appeared uninjured.  Redding Fire & EMS and Dodgingtown Volunteer Fire Company provided mutual aid.

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One injured in car fire near Danbury-Ridgefield line

One person was injured in a car fire near the Danbury-Ridgefield town line.  Police and firefighters responded to Route 7 at Bennetts Farm Road on Saturday, shortly after 5pm.  Emergency responders found the single car pulled over to the shoulder of the road fully involved in flames. The blaze was quickly extinguished.  One person was reportedly transported to the hospital.  The fire marshal's office is looking into the cause.

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Ridgefield scheduling second dose-only COVID-19 vaccine clinics

As the vaccination clinic held by the Town of Ridgefield moves into the business of also administering second dose COVID-19 vaccines, officials are urging people with appointments to pay attention to what they are signing in fo.  If this is a second dose, patients must bring the first dose card along with insurance card and ID.  If this is the first dose, just ID is needed.  The clinic does not take walk-ins.  First dose recipients must make sure they are not signing up for a second dose only clinic.  The available time slots will be listed on the Vaccine Administrative Management System.  The VAMS portal can be used to schedule appointments at multiple clinics across the State, including Nuvance Health.

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Danbury Fire Department awarded FEMA grant for COVID-19 response

Danbury Fire Department is getting a FEMA grant.  $7,009 is coming to the City through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant COVID-19 Supplemental program.  The funding opportunity is aimed at supporting the purchase of personal protective equipment and related disinfectant supplies and equipment to help the fire services prevent, prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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Final numbers in for Feeding Our Neighbors Community Challenge

The final numbers are in for the Feeding Our Neighbors Community Challenge.  More than $117,000 was raised for 14 Greater Danbury are food pantries.  The pantries are supporting an increased number of individuals and families struggling with food insecurity as part of the fallout from the pandemic. 

The United Way of Western Connecticut and Union Savings Bank launched the campaign in October for the Danbury Food Collaborative, bringing on board Newtown Savings Bank and Savings Bank of Danbury.  The 3 B’s Foundation offered a dollar-for-dollar match, up to $15,000, in December and local donors met the challenge, bringing the total dollars raised beyond the original goal of $100,000. 

Members of the Danbury Food Collaborative report serving three times as many households as they were before the pandemic.  Calls for information about food to Connecticut’s 211 line more than quadrupled during some months in 2020.  

Daily Bread Food Pantry Director  Peter Kent says their share of the Feeding Our Neighbors Community Challenge will pay for the majority of food typically purchases for a whole month.  While donations of food are critical, he says cash is what allows them to supplement those donations with exactly the right food at exactly the right time. 

Local food pantries that benefited from donations to the “Feeding Our Neighbors Community Challenge” are: Association of Religious Communities (ARC) • Bethel Food Pantry • Brookfield Social Services • Camella's Cupboard • Catholic Charities - Morning Glory Breakfast Program • Community Action Agency of Western CT • Daily Bread Food Pantry • Hillside Food Outreach • Interfaith AIDS Ministry • Jericho Partnership • The Salvation Army • Victory Christian Center • Purple Heart Ministries • Walnut Hill Community Food Pantry

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Putnam County seeks healthcare providers to be approved COVID-19 vaccine administrators

New York on Sunday allowed millions of residents with comorbidities to begin signing up for appointments at state-run COVID-19 vaccination sites. However, the lack of supply has meant some people driving hours to get the vaccine.  The Putnam County Department of Health has confirmed that there will be more providers to facilitate vaccination of residents with comorbidities soon.

Healthcare providers looking to become an approved COVID-19 vaccine provider are asked to sign up through the state's web portal.

The local health department dispenses all of the state-supplied doses within 48 hours of receiving them.  On top of the supply and demand imbalance, the region was faced with the challenges of safely delivering temperature-controlled doses of vaccine during back-to-back winter storms. County and state officials have contingency plans in place if there's a delay in shipment. 

Rather than having to cancel appointments, they say it is more efficient to schedule as the County receives doses.

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DPH recommends WCSU's Litchfield Hall dorm students to quarantine

Over the past couple of days, West Conn has seen an incremental increase in the number of positive COVID-19 cases in Litchfield Hall. As a precautionary measure, all students living in that dorm will be tested starting today. Tests will be administered to all Litchfield Hall residents again on Monday. 

The state Department of Public Health recommended Litchfield students remain in the dorm for up to 14 days, unless the situation allows otherwise.  Food service will be provided to those students in their building and classes will continue virtually. All students in isolation or quarantine will be instructed to contact their professors for instructions on how to attend their classes virtually. 

West Conn President Dr John Clark says they are taking these steps out of an abundance of caution to ensure the safety of Litchfield Hall residents and the campus in general.

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Driver strikes two people involved in earlier highway crash

Two people involved in a highway accident in Southbury last night were standing outside of their cars, when another vehicle struck them, one fatally. State Police are investigating the incident that happened westbound by the exit 15 off ramp.  A disabled vehicle was in the left lane when a vehicle came up the same lane and hit the drivers side of the car, which struck a pedestrian.  The driver then hit the other pedestrian.  72-year old Cynthia Northrop of Southbury was transported to Danbury Hospital with suspected serious injuries while 36-year old Michael Canby of Wolcott was pronounced dead at the scene.  37-year old Manuel Melendez did not suffer injuries.  Anyone with information about the accident is asked to contact Trooper Corey at Troop A in Southbury.

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Danbury Councilman proposes tax abatement for volunteer firefighters

A Democratic Danbury City Councilman is proposing a tax abatement for members of the City's volunteer fire companies.  It's a program in place in some surrounding towns, which only have volunteer firefighters. 

Frank Salvatore Jr says training and other requirements have increased since he became a volunteer fireman in the 1980s, when all that was required was a physical from a doctor.  The proposal would exclude elected officials from getting the tax break.

An ad hoc committee was formed in 2007, but never recommended an ordinance.  Mayor Joe Cavo plans to re-appoint members to that committee, but has concerns about eligibility, management and the spirit of volunteerism.  Cavo, before retirement, worked for the career Fire Department. 

Danbury has 80 to 100 volunteer firefighters in 12 companies, but they are consolidating due to a shortage of volunteers. Danbury volunteers must meet physical requirements, be certified annually, and complete quarterly training sessions with career staff and weekly sessions with their own companies. The city covers these costs.

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Former Danbury Mayor teases students about snow day announcement

Former Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton couldn't help himself and took to Twitter yesterday to tease school children about whether or not there would be classes during the snow storm, as he has done for years.  The new Department of Revenue Services Commissioner has significantly scaled back his social media presence since taking the state job.  His new boss, Governor Ned Lamont, didn't miss the tweet and responded with "You're still doing this?" and a winking emoji. 

Boughton did take some heat for causing confusion by using a gif that said snow day when in fact students were distance learning.

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Local lawmaker says Comcast will delay data cap, fees

Comcast has decided to postpone their proposed data cap and fee increase on high speed internet until at least next year.  Danbury state Representative David Arconti says he and his Energy and Technology Committee co-chair were in talks with company management for weeks, relaying constituent concern about the need for high speed internet remaining critical.  The cap was supposed to go into effect in July.  Arconti called the delay a positive thing for Connecticut families as COVID-19 continues to grip the country.  He pledged to keep working on the issue.

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Eversource CEO expects PURA to allow ratepayers to reimburse utility for storm response

Eversource CEO James Judge told industry analysts this week that the utility expects Connecticut regulators to eventually allow the company to recover costs related to Tropical Storm Isaias from ratepayers. 

Bethel state Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan said Eversource had audacity to expect the approval.  He noted that the utility made $1.2 billion in profit last year.  He pledged to push state regulators to issue a hard no on the reimbursement. 

The Office of Consumer Counsel called on  the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority not to approve costs assigned to ratepayers when the utilities were at fault in preparing for the storm.  PURA is investigating utility response to the August 4th storm and has not yet begun considering how much ratepayers will be required to pay for power restoration. Eversource is protesting regulators’ demands for cost details as part of the probe. 

The Courant reports that $206 million of the $230 million cost was for contractors and vendors.  The breakdown was $31 million for labor, $13 million for food and lodging, $7 million for payroll overhead and $6 million for materials.  In the PURA filing Eversource estimates at least $75 million is not yet billed by outside vendors, about 40% of external crew costs.

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Ridgefield looking to hire On Call Brush Attendant at transfer statio

The Town of Ridgefield is seeking On Call Brush Attendant at the transfer station. Candidates must be able to move throughout the dump area, communicate dumping rules to vehicle owners, be outside for most of the work shift and be available for shifts Monday through Saturdays. The position pays $13 per hour and the shift is typically from 7:30am to 3pm.  Applications can be submitted to the town of Ridgefield Human Resources Department.

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Future inclement weather means distance learning in Bethel

Today was the last snow day of the school year for Bethel students.  If there are more storms that make it unsafe for travel, students will attend class through distance learning. There were 5 snow days built into the Bethel Public School District calendar so any additional weather incident, will be a remote learning day. 

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Ridgefield Police remind drivers of fine for not clearing snow, ice from cars

The Ridgefield Police Department is offering a friendly reminder to drivers this winter.  They note that Connecticut law requires drivers to remove all snow and ice from their vehicles. Failure to do so may result in a possible fine.  The so-called “Ice Missile” Legislation requires drivers to remove any threatening ice or snow from the hood, trunk, and roof of their car or face a $75 fine. If snow or ice is dislodged from a motor vehicle and causes personal injury or property damage they can face a $200 to $1000 fine.  Ridgefield Police asked residents to help them by making sure vehicles are well cleaned of snow and ice before taking to the roads.

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Greater Danbury area towns drop out of Red Alert Zone for COVID-19 spread

There's been a significant decrease in the number of municipalities in the state's Red Alert Zone for high community spread of COVID-19.  There are now just 138 of 169 communities that have greater than 15 cases per 100,000 population over the last two weeks, where as last month it was all but 1 town.  Among those moving down to the Orange alert level, with 10 to 14 cases per 100,000 are Kent, Sherman, and Southbury.  Moving down to the Yellow Zone for having 5 to 9 cases per 100,000 are Redding, Salisbury, and Woodbury.  In the lowest level, Gray, for having fewer than 5 cases per 100,000 population over the last two weeks are Bridgewater, Cornwall, and Warren.

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Region 14 Superintendent placed on paid leave amid vaccine clinic investigation

The Region 14 school Superintendent has been placed on paid administrative leave amid an investigation into a controversial vaccine clinic.  The Board of Ed for Woodbury and Bethlehem voted last night on the leave until further notice and pending the outcome of the investigation. 

An investigation is underway to determine whether Dr. Joe Olzacki  placed administrators, central office staff, and school board members and their spouses ahead of teachers at a vaccine clinic last month.  Some teachers and school staff were vaccinated at that time.  Teachers have voted they have “no confidence” in the superintendent. 

The Pomperaug Health District vaccinated more than 300 employees from Region 14, Region 15 and the Oxford school district before the state clarified that only residents 75 and older were eligible when Phase 1b first opened. The clinic was allowed to go forward so that doses weren't wasted, but future clinics for school staff were canceled.

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Mobile Food Pantry stop in Ridgefield today called off due to snow

The Connecticut Food Bank Mobile Food Pantry stop in Ridgefield today has been cancelled due to the weather.  There are other resources available for Ridgefield residents needing access to food.  Residents can contact the Town Hall Food Pantry, 203-431-2754 or municipalagent@ridgefieldct.org, St. Stephen's Little Pantry available 24 hours in their parking lot, and First Congregational Church has a food pantry by appointment. The Ridgefield Connecticut Mobile Food Pantry distribution is scheduled for the 3rd Friday of the month, with the next one to be held March 19th at St. Andrew's Church, 11am

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Bethel not accepting walk-ins at town-run clinic

On Saturday, Bethel conducted its third COVID-19 vaccine clinic, administering the Moderna vaccine to about 450 Bethel and Redding residents. The majority of residents in the 75 and older age group have now received the vaccine and the health department is now administering doses to residents in the 65 to 74 age group.  Those currently eligible for the vaccine must register in advance on the town's website. It is not possible to accept "walk-in" visits at this time, due to the limited supply of vaccines.  The next grouping will include essential workers and individuals with underlying health concerns.  But First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says as of this date they are still waiting for the state to issue definitions and guidance on these groups.

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Putnam County officials push for more COVID-19 vaccine doses

Much like in Connecticut, New York residents are expressing frustration with the process of scheduling a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.  Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell is advocating for more vaccine as eligibility groups expand because the supply doesn’t meet the demand.  For many people, there is confusion about how and where to access an appointment. To complicate matters, ODell says some first-dose shipments sent to local health departments have been specifically designated by the state for targeted populations, such as individuals affiliated with the Office for People with Developmental Disabilities. New York requires individuals over 65 to get vaccinated at a state-run vaccination site or a pharmacy or healthcare provider. Local Health Departments are generally not permitted to vaccinate this portion of the population unless they also meet other eligibility criteria such as essential worker status.

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Danbury declares Level 2 Snow Emergency

Danbury is expecting a long duration snow event through tomorrow.  In anticipation of this storm, Mayor Joe Cavo called for a Level 2 Snow Emergency beginning at 8am. This will allow residents until 10am to move cars off City streets or into the Patriot Garage to allow Public Works crews the ability to safely clear roads. The Patriot Parking Garage will be free of charge throughout the duration of the snow emergency.  A Level 2 Snow Emergency also means the City is recommending limited travel.

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Local lawmaker resigns, effective immediately

Monroe State Representative JP Sredzinski, who also represents a portion of Newtown, has resigned effective immediately.  The 4-term lawmaker called it the right decision for his family, for many reasons, saying the pandemic has showed him that personal relationships are the most important thing.  

Connecticut is a part-time legislature, requiring most people to have a full-time career as well, and it became a balance of family, career and elected office that needed a readjustment.  He was promoted in September as Stratford superintendent of public safety dispatch and is now full-time director of 911 operations. 

In reflecting on his 17 years in politics, Sredzinski said much has changed in the political landscape of the state and nation.  He hopes everyone can come together, despite differences, and work toward making communities a better place.  The outgoing 112th District Representative touted maintaining a reasonable level of educational funding and bringing home over $1 million in state grants.

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Waterbury man arrested by Danbury Police for alleged drug sales

A Waterbury man has been arrested for alleged drug sales in Danbury.  An investigation began weeks ago into resident complaints that Ramell “Mel” Crawford was selling illicit drugs from his car.  He had been arrested by Danbury Police weeks earlier on drug and weapons-related offenses. 

Investigators set up surveillance yesterday afternoon at locations he was known to frequent and located Crawford as he pulled into the parking lot of an apartment building.  As police tried to carry out a search and seizure warrants for his car and person, Crawford abandoned his car and fled on foot. 

He was captured a short time later and taken into custody. 

No drugs were found on Crawford, but a substantial amount of heroin packaged for sale was found in the car.  Police also seized money, a portable scale, and several grams of crack cocaine. 

Crawford was held on $300,000 bond.  Yesterday's arrest is his third for drug trafficking, two including weapons-related violations, in less than a year. He was released on substantial bonds from his previous two arrests. 

He was charged yesterday with Possession of a Controlled Substance, Possession with Intent to Sell, Possession with Intent to Sell within 1500’ of a school, Possession within 1500’ of a school, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia within 1500’ of a school, Operating a Motor Vehicle with Suspended License, and Interfering with the Duties of a Police Officer.

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COVID-19 vaccine clinics postponed due to snow

Due to today's forecasted storm, some COVID-19 vaccine clinics today are being postponed.  Some appointments at the clinic at Yanity Gym in Ridgefield today and at New Milford High School tomorrow are being moved to reduce travel on potentially hazardous roads. In Ridgefield, individuals with appointments to be inoculated from 9am to noon will be honored.  People with later appointments will be contacted by clinic staff.  In New Milford, all appointments are being rescheduled for Monday and contacted by New Milford Senior Center staff to reschedule.

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Special Town Meeting in Redding tonight to be held virtually

A Special Town Meeting will be held virtually in Redding tonight about two items. 

One is to create an Other Post-Employment Benefits Trust and the other is to amend the Open Space Ordinance.  The amendment would require dogs be leashed on town-owned open space, unless otherwise posted, as a COVID-19 precaution. The Conservation Commission will decide any areas to be posted as exempt. The proposed ordinance gives authority to levy a fine. 

This meeting will be conducted in the same format as any other town meeting, except it will be held virtually via Zoom.  Anyone wishing to attend and vote must show ID on their screen to the  Registrar of Voters who will check off their name and then admit them into the meeting. 

The meeting is at 6:30pm. 

In order to expedite the check-in process, the Registrars are strongly encouraging attendees pre-register for the meeting by emailing them their full name, address, date of birth, phone number and Zoom name/phone number.  A copy of a valid ID should be attached to the email, which must have the subject line of "Special Town Meeting". 

The OPEB trust is a way to invest and manage funds for post-employee benefits that are not pension related as opposed to the current “pay as you go” method. The proposed ordinance will establish the trust and OPEB board which will be the Board of Finance. Administrative actions will be the role of the First Selectwoman along with the Treasurer and Finance Director.  

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State Police investigating theft of ATM in Bridgewater

State Police are investigating the theft of an ATM in Bridgewater.  Police responded to the Mobil gas station on New Milford Road shortly before 1am yesterday and found the locked front door had been forced open.  Troopers then discovered an ATM machine inside the store had been stolen.  Surveillance camera footage captured the perpetrators driving off in an older model dark gray Hyundai Sonata.  Anyone with information is asked to call Troop A at 203-267-2200.

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State Police K9 gets donation of bullet protective vest

Connecticut State Police K9 Brocko has received a bullet and stab protective vest thanks to a charitable donation from non-profit organization Vested Interest in K9s.  Brocko’s vest was sponsored by Mazaika Family Foundation of Bethlehem, and embroidered with the sentiment “Born to Love-Trained to Serve-Loyal Always”. 

(Photo: CSP)

The nonprofit Vested Interest in K9s, established in 2009, provides bullet and stab protective vests and other assistance to dogs of law enforcement and related agencies throughout the United States. The organization has provided over 4,183 vests to K9s in all 50 states at a value of $6.9 million, through both private and corporate donations. 

This potentially lifesaving body armor for four-legged K9 officers is U.S. made, custom fitted, and NIJ certified. 

The program is open to U.S. dogs that are at least 20 months old and actively employed and certified with law enforcement or related agencies.  K9s with expired vests are also eligible to participate.  There are an estimated 30,000 law enforcement K9s throughout the United States.  

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Fire at Bethel mulching facility extinguished

A fire at a Bethel mulching facility was extinguished yesterday.  Firefighters responded to a  report of a payloader fire on Wooster Street and found the machine fully involved, unoccupied.  Crews extinguished the flames and used hazardous materials techniques to contain the spill of engine fluids to prevent waterway contamination.  There were no injuries.  The scene was turned over to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection for hazmat mitigation.  Bethel Police also responded to the scene.  The fire marshal’s office is investigating.

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New Milford Mayor proposed lower mill rate in upcoming budget

New Milford Mayor Pete Bass has presented a budget proposal to the Town Council and Board of Finance for their review.  He suggests reducing the mill rate by 2.47 percent.  Bass says this would be the first time in 39 years that the t ax rate has been reduced for two consecutive years. 

The $105.1 million proposal includes $39.26 for the town and $65.8 million for the schools.  Bass recommended using the proposed Board of Education budget as presented. 

There is a focus on Sarah Noble School and New Milford High School roofs, as well as the library modernization project.  The budget also includes money to improve roads and other town infrastructure as well as manpower for the Social Services Department, Parks and Rec and the Youth Agency.  Bass says this will help to address childhood depression, isolation, vaping and other issues. 

The Town Council and Board of Finance will hear from Department heads virtually starting next Tuesday about different aspects of the proposed budget.

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Danbury COIVD-19 test rates down from previous weeks

Danbury Health Department officials are reporting significantly fewer COVID-19 cases from the weekend and start of this week.  There were 20 positive tests reported on Saturday, 38 on Sunday and 13 on Monday.  Health officials though are urging residents to continue taking preventative measures like wearing a mask, social distancing and washing hands frequently.

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Bethel warns of scam vaccine appointment calls

Bethel officials are warning residents to be aware of scams circulating in town related to the COVID-19 vaccine.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says he was made aware that some residents received calls over the weekend from someone supposedly booking COVID-19 vaccine appointments for the town, who asked for personal financial information like social security and credit card numbers.  Knickerbocker says that information is not needed to be vaccinated.  There is no charge for the shot, which is being provided by the federal government free of charge to individuals.  Knickerbocker added that the town is not recording social security numbers.  Anyone receiving such a call is asked to hang up and call police on the non-emergency line to report it.

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Danbury Health Official: Vaccine needs time to be effective after inoculation

Questions continue to come into local health officials about the COVID-19 vaccine.  The Danbury Department of Health & Human Services says both the Pfizer and Moderna vaccine teach the immune systems how to recognize and fight the virus that causes COVID-19. It typically takes a few weeks after vaccination for the body to build immunity against the virus, meaning it is possible a person could still get COVID-19 just after vaccination. This is because the vaccine has not had enough time to provide protection. Even after getting vaccinated Acting Health Director Kara Prunty says it’s important to continue using all the tools available to help stop this pandemic.  She says mask wearing, social distancing and not gathering with people outside the household will be in place for a while.

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Kindergarten Registration for next school year open in Danbury

Kindergarten Registration for the next school year is open in Danbury.  Any resident turning 5 years old by January 1st 2022 is eligible to be enrolled.  Registration starts online and then a Danbury Public School Registrar will call to move to the next step.  Once the application form is completed, a registrar will reach out to have parents bring in the necessary documents.  Those items include the child's birth certificate, parent's ID, current physical, and proof of address such as a Lease, Mortgage Statement, or Notarized letter from the owner of the home and a utility bill.

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New Fairfield/Sherman COVID-19 vaccine clinic Feb. 18 cancelled

Due to the increasing probability of another larger scale snowstorm tomorrow, vaccination appointments scheduled for Thursday at the New Fairfield/Sherman Clinic, will be rescheduled to today and Saturday.  Anyone with an appointment tomorrow is being called by clinic staff to reschedule.

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Local lawmaker critical of proposed state budget

A local lawmaker is critical of parts of Governor Lamont's proposed budget for the next two fiscal years. 

Newtown Representative Mitch Bolinsky says about 45-percent of the funding comes from the Federal Government and that will leave major budget deficits in the future.  He notes that previous governors papered over budget deficits with one-time revenues and it led Connecticut into a large financial hole once those dollars were expended.  

Bolinsky says Connecticut has a ‘once-in-a-lifetime opportunity’ on the horizon because of an aging workforce.  Bolinsky recently met with Budget Chief Melissa Macaw about the upwards of 25% of the state workforce retiring in the next 18-months.  He says the state should modernizing operations and invest in the technology needed to both serve taxpayers better and to create significantly greater organizational efficiencies. 

The Appropriations Committee will be having public hearings on the proposed budget.  Bolisnky is a ranking member of two subcommittees and serves on three others.  State agency budget presentations and public hearings are being held from Thursday through March 1st.

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Brewster Fire Department adds 9 probationary members

Brewster Fire Department held an orientation Sunday for 9 new probationary members who were accepted into the department.  They were trained on basic operations of the Brewster Fire Department, CPR, and briefed on the probationary member development program that they will all be a part of for the next twelve months.  The Brewster Fire Department accepts members in the months February and August.

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Some Danbury Police officers getting new body armor

Five Danbury Police officers are getting new body armor.  The Department says a donation from Responder Wellness Inc. will offset the cost.  The mission of the organization is to subsidize, or provide free of charge, safety equipment and wellness services to First Responders.  The group currently serves Police, Firefighters, EMS and 911 operators in Fairfield County, with plans to grow state-wide.

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Security warning issue on municipal Facebook page cleared up

When people tried to access the Town of Bethel's Facebook page last week, they may have received a security warning that the connection was not secure and that private information could be exposed.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says there was no security problem with the site, and no private data of any kind was in danger of being exposed. The problem was that the site's security certificate expired and there was a delay with the renewal.  The cause for the delay is not yet known.  The security certificate has now been reinstalled and the site is functioning normally again.  Town officials apologized for any concern this may have caused in the community.

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Car parade marks Easton woman's 100th birthday

A 100 car parade moved through Easton yesterday to mark the 100th birthday of a town resident.  Anne Fiyalka said she never smoked and keeps her mind and body active.  Though before the pandemic, she was much more active, going to the Easton Senior Center for exercise twice a week, Easton Center for movies, bowling every Wednesday, and on Fridays took a weaving class at the senior center.  When Fiyalka was in school in Bridgeport, she n had the chance to meet Amelia Earhart.  Her daughter told WVIT-TV that her mother was an honor student and Earhart asked for three honor students to join her on the plane. Fiyalka was one of those three chosen. The 100 year old gets her second COVID-19 shot on Thursday.

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Danbury 30-39 year olds continue to have highest COVID-19 positivity test rate

The City of Danbury is reporting some COVID-19 case numbers by age group.  The 30 to 39 year olds in the City continue to account for about a 5th of all positive test, with more than 2-thousand cases reported in that age group since the pandemic began nearly a year ago.  The next group with the largest positivity rate in Danbury was 40 to 49 year olds with nearly 17-hundred cases, or about 17-percent of all tests in the City.  That group was closely followed by 20 to 29 year olds with 16-hundred cases, or about 15-percent of the total tests reported.

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Danbury smoke shop owner cited for selling to underage people

In response to countless complaints reported to Danbury Police about blatant sales of tobacco/vape products to underage people, a compliance check was carried out on Friday. Records indicated that the Cloud House on Newtown Road was the shop most complained about. 

Six locations, including Cloud House were visited Friday by cadet volunteers under the age of 21.  Five locations asked for identification from the underage volunteers and refused to sell their products. 

The owner of Cloud House received violations for 3 separate sales, which he made without asking for identification. Saed Alkasaji made two independent sales to cadet volunteers and one to a 17-year-old, which investigators witnessed when entering the shop to take enforcement action for the earlier sales. 

Police noted that while investigators were taking enforcement action, at least five underage people entered the shop in an attempt to make purchases.

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Ridgefield delays start of today's COVID-19 vaccine clinic

Due to the expectation of hazardous driving conditions today, the town of Ridgefield announced yesterday that their COVID-19 Vaccine Clinic at Yanity Gym will run from 11am to 5pm instead of 9am to 4pm, as originally scheduled. Individuals with appointments from 9am to 11am were contacted directly with a new appointment time for today. Appointments between 11am and 4pm will be honored as originally scheduled. The delay will allow the Ridgefield Department of Public Service the time needed to salt the Yanity Gym parking area and sand secondary roads for the safety of clinic attendees, volunteers, and staff.

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Danbury family temporarily displaced by fire at two-family home

A Danbury family has been temporarily displaced by a fire at their Cottage Street home.  A Danbury Police officer on routine patrol in the area shortly before 6 o'clock last night saw heavy smoke coming from a 2-family home.  Firefighters were alerted that the officer made sure all occupants were out of the house and noted that there was a working fire in the kitchen.  Firefighters determined that the blaze was being fed by a broken gas line.  They quickly extinguished the fire with one hose line.  One unit in the two-family home was restored to be occupied, while the other occupants will stay with family. The Fire Marshal's Office is investigating. There were no injuries reported.  Residents are urged to make sure their smoke alarms are up to date and in working order.

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Sandy Hook firefighters ventilate smoke from home

Sandy Hook firefighters had to ventilate smoke from a home after a creosote removing log was used in a chimney.  Firefighters responded to Totem Trail at Pootatuck Park Friday afternoon after a homeowner reported a brief visible fire and the tell tale sound of a jet engine in the chimney.  First arriving units didn't see flames, but found light smoke conditions showing from the chimney.  Firefighters helped the homeowner unclog the chimney, from the roof and from inside the home.

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Bail denied for Ridgefield man charged in U.S. Capitol riot

A Ridgefield man charged for his alleged role in the attack on the U-S Capitol last month has been denied bail.  23-year old Patrick McCaughey was ordered Friday to remain in detention.  He is due back in federal court on March 12th for a status conference.  Prosecutors argued that McCaughey is a danger to the community and a flight risk because of dual German citizenship.  His attorney suggested a real estate bond for his father’s South Salem house,  in addition to surety bonds, and a lien in favor of the government on a property he owns in Maine.  

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Candlewood Lake Authority to host presentation on zebra mussels

The Candlewood Lake Authority is hosting an educational presentation this week about the current state of Zebra Mussels in the lake.  The organization will also discuss the steps they're taking to protect the lake from the invasive species, and other invasives.  Following the presentation, CLA members will be taking questions via chat to help clarify any questions or concerns residents have.  The presentation is being held via Zoom on the 18th at 7pm.

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First case of so-called 'South African' COVID variant detected in Conn.

The first case of the so-called “South African” COVID variant has been detected in a Connecticut patient whose “condition is improving.”

Governor Lamont’s office announced yesterday that this is the first known case of the variant in a Connecticut resident.

New York health officials reported the variant case this past weekend and worked with the Connecticut Department of Health to complete contact tracing for the Fairfield County resident between the ages of 60-70.  The patient has not reported any recent travel.

The B.1.351 strain was first discovered in the United States toward the end of January. Like the U.K. variant, the South African one is believed to be more contagious than the original COVID-19 virus, but not necessarily more severe.

Connecticut has reported 42 cases of the U.K. variant.

Lamont says seeing another variant in Connecticut reinforces the need for everyone to take all of the necessary precautions which have proven to be successful over the past year.  He added that the virus does not recognize state boundaries, and it certainly does not recognize international borders, which means the responsibility is on each person to do what they can to mitigate the spread.

Public health officials emphasized the need for continued mask-wearing, social distancing, isolating when sick and avoiding gathering with individuals who do not live in your household.

The CDC found studies suggesting current COVID vaccines recognize the variants, but studies are ongoing.

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Danbury approves, again, donated use of new ambulance building

The Danbury City Council has again accepted a donation of a new ambulance building in the City.  Technically the Council accepted the donation and approved the lease in October, but there were a few modifications needed. 

At their meeting earlier this month, the Council approved an updated 99-year lease, specifying the value of the donation.  The acceptance now notes that it cost $150,000 to build and contains $3,000 worth of content.  The City will get use of a new public safety building on the Westside, for a dollar a year.  The Rizzo Corporation offered the City the opportunity to permanently locate an ambulance at Keystone Place on Wooster Heights Road, a new senior living community. 

City officials estimate that it would have cost Danbury $500,000 to build the facility itself.  

Emergency Management Director Matt Cassavechia said in October that this will help provide rapid access to I-84 and Route 7, decrease response times to medical emergencies, and provide additional space for personnel and equipment.  Cassavechia says EMS westside deployment currently lacks a base station to house equipment and personnel often leading to excessive idling of vehicles and limited access of staff accommodations over extended periods throughout the shift. 

Keystone Place has 55 independent living, 63 assisted living and 22 memory care apartments.

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Firefighters urge residents to prepare for incoming ice storm

An ice storm is forecast for the Greater Danbury area through Tuesday morning. Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company officials say they are preparing, and called on residents to do so as well.  Power outages are possible and they suggest everyone take time to charge devices now, get fuel for generators and firewood for heat if residents have the means to burn wood. But they urge people to be mindful of carbon monoxide when operating generators near the home and not to use candles.

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Brookfield COVID-19 positivity rates continues to decrease

As of Thursday, Brookfield remains in the Red Zone for high community spread of COVID-19.  In the last two weeks, Brookfield had 106 new cases of coronavirus. Cases last week were 40, down from the 66 reported for the prior week. That moves the rate per 100,000 residents to 44.5, down from 51.3. The positivity rate for Brookfield is now 6.3%, down from 7.5% last week. First Selectman Steve Dunn says the trends overall have been moving in the right direction for over 4 weeks now.  Over 75% of Brookfield residents 75 and older have been vaccinated.

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Bethel, Newtown firefighters respond to chimney fires

Last night, Stony Hill Fire assisted Bethel Fire at chimney blaze on Rockwell Road.  Company officials reminded residents that chimneys should be cleaned and inspected by a licensed chimney sweep at least once a year.  This fire was contained to the chimney with no extension to the house.  A fire in Newtown was contained to the chimney last Sunday.  Firefighters responded to a home on Crown View Drive and were told that the home was evacuated, though there was smoke inside.  Firefighters extinguished the flames, cleared out debris, and removed the chimney cap for the homeowner.

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New Milford officials give update on COVID-19, Health Director position

9-percent of New Milford's total population has received at least the first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine.  Some 60-percent of New Milford residents 75 and older have gotten the first shot.  As the State continues to receive limited amounts of the vaccine, New Milford continues to ask for doses to be allocated in Litchfield County.  Health Director Lisa Morrissey noted that additional New Milford Clinics will be opened through a partnership with Nuvance/New Milford Hospital.  New Milford Health Director Mike Crespan has officially retired from the position after more than 3 decades.  He served the town for 33 years.  Mayor Pete Bass thanked Crespan for everything he's done for the Town, especially this past year with COVID-19.

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Study underway about improvements to Route 37

A study is underway about improvements to Route 37 between the Exit 6 highway ramps in Danbury and the New Fairfield town line.  WestCOG, the regional planning agency, is working with City and Town officials to develop a corridor study.  They're looking at how to alleviate traffic congestion, improve pedestrian mobility, and to promote healthy and environmentally friendly modes of transportation. 

The study also evaluated the possibility of adding pedestrian and bike areas along the corridor.  Danbury and New Fairfield officials are looking into a walking trail along Margerie Lake Reservoir. 

Senior Engineer Parker Sorenson notes that the traffic signals at Golden Hill and at Jeanette Street are owned by the DOT, while the City owns the signals from Shoprite, south.  Sorenson says they want to coordinate the infrastructure, which are not now in the same signal system.  He called that an easy fix that will have a big impact. 

The southbound approach on 37 at 39 in New Fairfield has one lane, and the group proposed having a dedicated left turn lane.  He says it not only will provide efficiencies, but also safety.  The intersection is currently in the design phase for a signal system upgrade. 

Padanaram Road forks off at a sharp angle, but Sorenson says there is enough right of way to make it a T intersection and add a right turn lane.  They also want to add a shoulder northbound to allow traffic to bypass cars waiting to make a left onto Padanaram. Sorenson says the afternoon drive time traffic delay could be reduced by a minute and a half for cars waiting to make a right off Padanaram. 

Between Jeannette and Golden Hill, they want to add a center left turn lane for north and southbound traffic to get into driveways.  The group is proposing the DOT widen the shoulders by the shopping plazas around the animal hospital and Bagleman. 

Lastly, they suggest extending the merge where two lanes become one by the McDonald's.  They looked at crash data and found a lot of sideswipe accidents at that quick merge.

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22 additional cases of UK coronavirus variant found in Conn.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health also reported 22 additional cases of the new coronavirus variant first identified in the United Kingdom. To date, there have now been a total of 42 cases of the B117 variant in Connecticut.  Cases involve 1 resident each of Southbury, Seymour, and Oxford.  The newly identified cases stem from specimens that were collected between January 12th and February 3rd. The individuals involved range in age from 5 to 90 and are residents of 19 communities.

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Ridgefield First Selectman concerned about COVID-19 misinformation

Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi is concerned about misinformation on social media when it comes to COVID-19 and vaccines.  He expressed worries about people being scammed and about people not understanding their second dose timelines.  Marconi urged people to call the town's helpline, and notes that if the volunteers don’t have an answer immediately, it's because they're fielding many calls and emails.  The Vaccination Clinic held at Yanity Gym been running for four weeks and is vaccinating the phases as outlined by the State.  The clinic is by appointment only, with no walk-ins.  Marconi says people should not stand out in the cold hoping for that last drop because all vials are accounted for at the end of the day.

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New Fairfield First Selectman releases new COVID-19 data

Over the course of a week, New Fairfield has reported 28 new, confirmed cases of COVID-19. The COVID infection rate in New Fairfield has dropped to 30 cases per 100,000 people, however, the town is still in the red zone.  The latest data from the Connecticut Department of Public Health indicates that about 500 of the town's 625 residents over 75 have been vaccinated, that's about 79% of elderly New Fairfield residents.  First Selectman Pat Del Monaco expects certain frontline essential workers to become eligible for vaccine sometime in March.  Any resident having difficulty navigating the VAMS registration system is urged to contact the Senior Center at 203-312-5665 or 203-312-5686.

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FirstLight to continue deep drawdown to kill zebra mussels in Candlewood Lake

The Candlewood Lake Authority and FirstLight Power are working together on further actions to increase possibility of eradicating invasive zebra mussels.  The deep drawdown will likely fall another foot to 1.5 feet.  CLA says exposure to the air and freezing temperatures is one of the best ways to kill living zebra mussels.  The organization says additional coverage will help ensure as many mussels are exposed as possible.  Before the end of February, the lake level will decrease to the 418 elevation, the lowest possible level for a deep drawdown year.  CLA also thanked members of the community who have searched, and continue to search, the shoreline for signs of zebra mussels, and then report any that are found.

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Bethel Police patch to be updated

Part of the Bethel Police uniform is getting an update.  Officers have worn the same patch since the 1970's; a bright blue, yellow, and red patriotic patch which mirrors the shape and design of badges. The new patches will begin to appear on the uniforms of Bethel Police officers as early as this month, with a full switch over to be completed by September 1st.  The patch redesign was initiated by Chief Jeffrey Finch four years ago and upon his retirement, Chief Pugner continued his efforts. Pugner incorporated the colors black and gold from all of prior patches, and in a nod to the most recent, the American flag and bald eagle were also retained.  The seal for the Town of Bethel has now replaced the Connecticut seal, which department officials say represents a renewal of their promise and dedication to members of the community.   Bethel Police hope these patches will always signify safety, service, and comfort to everyone who sees it.   

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Danbury seeks bids from experienced Vending Truck operators

The City of Danbury is looking for bids from experienced Vending Truck operators to be on site at Rogers Park for the summer season. Bidders should submit 2 copies of their proposal, including qualification data, to City Hall no later than 2pm on March 4th.

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Desk shields for New Milford teachers, students ordered

Desk shields for all New Milford teachers and students have been ordered and are due to come in over the next few weeks.  This comes as elementary students are preparing to return full time to classrooms in March.  The shields were approved by the Board of Education in late January. The Facilities department will continue to work with building administration on cafeteria set up and partitions, as well as classroom configuration. Social distancing throughout the schools will be approximately 3 to 6 feet, and during recess students will be required to wear their masks.

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Newtown Police: Purse stolen from car while woman pumped gas

Newtown Police Department is investigating a purse theft from a car at a local gas station.  Newtown Police say a woman was pumping gas last Friday when a  car drove up to the pumps next to her, a male jumped out and grabbed a purse off the front seat.  Newtown Police called on residents to be aware of their surroundings, take out valuables and take key.  They're also reminding people to lock unattended vehicles as cars are still being entered into every night.  Newtown Police say locally and across the state vehicles are being stolen at numbers that have never been seen.

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Bethel Board of Ed proposes 3-percent budget increase

The Bethel Board of Education has proposed a 3 percent increase in spending for the coming fiscal year.  The $49.5 million plan will be supplemented by a $1 million federal grant for pandemic-related uses.  Some of that money will be put toward PPE, custodial services and technology.  But Superintendent Dr Christine Carver says a portion could be used for after-school programs to close academic gaps that may have developed because of the pandemic. 

Bethel is looking to add 4 new positions: a special education teacher, social-emotional learning coach, elementary school teacher and a math specialist.  A fulltime IT person will be hired as the district's technology department has grown over the last 6 years. There used to be 1,254 student laptops and 496 staff devices, but now there's 3,077 student devices and 690 staff devices to be supported.

The Board of Selectmen have scheduled the annual town meeting for  April 5, at 7pm, though a location or zoom link have not been decided.

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Monroe First Selectman presents budget to town officials

Monroe First Selectman Ken Kellogg has presented his proposed budget to Town Council.  The plan includes a municipal spending increase of 2.16 percent, which he says maintains services, meets contractual obligations and the ongoing increases in the costs of medical insurance, as well as the state police pension plan.  The Board of Education appropriation makes up over two thirds of the entire Town budget and their request is a 5.85 percent increase over the current fiscal year. Kellogg's proposal reduced that request by $132,000.  The budget projects a tax rate increase of 3.31%, which would result in a 4-year average of less than 1% per year.  His proposal includes the use of some fund balance to reduce the strain on taxpayers.

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Wilton Police Department looking to hire a dispatcher

The Wilton Police Department is looking to hire a dispatcher.  Applicants must to a written exam in order to be eligible for the position, with the next test being held online on March 13th.  The starting salary is nearly $56,000, with an 8th step top salary just shy of $70,000.  Applicants will be interviewed, subject to extensive background investigation and medical and drug screenings. The closing date for applications is March 14th. 

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3 arrested after high speed car chase in stolen vehicle

Three people have been arrested for being in possession of stolen property after a high speed chase in New York.  State Police Troopers tried to stop a Kia Forte on I-684 late last Wednesday night for traffic violations when the driver sped northbound at speeds over 120 miles an hour. 

During the pursuit, Troopers learned the car was reported stolen out of North Haven. 

Spike strips were put down Route 22 in the area of Thunder Ridge and the vehicle became disabled miles away on Route 55. 

The driver, 22-year old Richard Holmes Jr of Waterbury and two passengers were taken into custody.  He along with 24-year old Moesha Gordon of Waterbury and 20-year old Rayvon Holmes of Bellport, New York were charged with two felony counts of possession of stolen property.  Richard Holmes was also arrested for Fleeing an Officer and Aggravated Unlicensed Operation.

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Plans in the works to reopen New Milford elementary schools

All New Milford pre-k through 5th grade principals will hold virtual meetings with parents prior to students returning in person next month to describe the school day and provide a virtual tour of each building.  Prior to the reopening and throughout the first week, the Superintendent and the town's Health Director will be visiting the schools to make any adjustments needed.  In addition to those schools reopening for in-person learning next month, there will be changes made to the middle school and high school schedules.  That will include a half day of in person learning for students on Wednesdays with Cohort A and B rotating in. Cohort A will begin on March 17th.  Staff has given feedback to principals about schedules, transitions and lunch/recess.

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Some local towns move out of COVID-19 red alert zone

There are fewer Connecticut towns in the state's Red Alert Zone for high community spread of COVID-19.  155 of 169 municipalities remain in the red zone, but the state Department of Public Health says Kent, Redding, and Salisbury are among 5 municipalities to move into the orange alert level.  Instead of the 15 cases per 100,000 population, that level is 10 to 14 cases.  More towns have also dropped to the grey alert level for having fewer than 5 cases per 100,000 population.  Those includes 9 municipalities include Bridgewater, Cornwall, and Warren. 

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Danbury Superintendent to retire, New Milford interim to get role officially

After more than a decade leading Danbury Public Schools, Superintendent Dr Sal Pascarella has announced his retirement.  He said in a letter to the Board of Education this week that after thought and reflection, it is with mixed emotions that he decided to conclude this chapter of his 50-year career in education.  His retirement takes effect at the end of this school year on June 30th.   Meanwhile, New Milford Public School District has announced that Alisha DiCorpo was named superintendent after a unanimous vote at by the Board of Education this week.  She served as the interim superintendent starting in October, taking over after the departure of another interim superintendent.  Prior to that, she was the district’s assistant superintendent for four years.  DiCorpo has worked in education for more than 20 years.

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Two Region 14 Board of Ed members resign amid investigation of vaccine 'line jumping'

Amid accusations that Region 14 officials jumped the COVID-19 vaccine line, two Board of Education members have resigned.  The Newstimes reports that Pam Zmek and Janet Morgan cited differences with the administration and a family member’s health issue as reasons for the departures, effective last week.  Region 14 includes Woodbury and Bethlehem.  The Board of Ed is investigating whether administrators, central office staff, and school board members and their spouses were put ahead of teachers at a vaccine clinic last month.  Some teachers and school staff were vaccinated at that time.  Teachers have voted they have “no confidence” in the superintendent.  The Pomperaug Health District vaccinated more than 300 employees from Region 14, Region 15 and the Oxford school district before the state clarified that only residents 75 and older should be eligible when Phase 1b first opened. The clinic was allowed to go forward so that doses weren't wasted, but future clinics for school staff were canceled.

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New Milford to bring some students back to full in-person learning

The New Milford School District is planning to bring students back for in person learning in pre-k through 5th grades during the month of March. Students who wish to continue accessing their education remotely will also be able to do so. The transition will take place with pre-k through 2nd graders returning on March 1st, and then two weeks later, grades 3 through 5 on March 15th. The Friday before each school is to reopen, both cohorts will be remote.  District officials say this will allow teachers and administrators time to collaboratively plan for a safe return for all students and staff.  All reopen dates are subject to change, based upon COVID related factors.  The schools are asking that parents inform them as to whether or not children will be returning to school in person.  Each school has sent out a parent survey to be filled out per child, by the 19th.

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Danbury Board of Ed proposes nearly 10-percent increase in budget for coming year

The Danbury Board of Education is proposing a 9.82 percent increase in the school budget for the coming year.  With one abstention, the Board voted to send Mayor Joe Cavo a $149-million proposal.  Cavo plans to meet with the Superintendent and others to see  how federal and state grants fit into the plan.  Governor Lamont proposed keeping a state grant to Danbury flat at $37.7 million, with the Alliance grant from the state also remaining the same.  Danbury could get an additional $10 million from the federal government over two years for the schools.  The Mayor is currently drafting a budget to present to the City Council in April.  Members will then vet the plan and vote on a proposal for the City and schools at their May meeting. 

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New Fairfield considering creating standing tax abatement committee

New Fairfield does not have a standing tax abatement committee, but one could be established.  First Selectman Pat Del Monaco presented the idea recently to the Board of Selectmen.  She says if there was a time to do it, it's now when there are probably a lot of people in town who are in dire financial straits.  Currently, tax delinquent New Fairfield residents face a lien on their property.  Requests for tax abatement are currently subject to approval by the state Office of Policy and Management.  Selectman Khris Hall agreed that it's something to consider at this time.  Selectman Kim Hanson while he's wary of potential problems that could arise, he doesn’t think a tax abatement committee is “a terrible idea.” Hanson called for very specific rules under which there is an abatement.  Del Monaco agreed to talk with former First Selectman Cheryl Reedy about how New Fairfield’s past tax abatement committee worked.  New Fairfield would have to rely on an ordinance.  The town's current tax abatement program only applies to emergency service volunteers.

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Bond hearing set for Ridgefield man accused of taking part in riot at U.S. Capitol

A Ridgefield man will get a bond hearing today following arrest for his alleged role in the attack on the U.S. Capitol last month.  Prosecutors say 23-year old Patrick McCaughey is violent and asked the court not to release him on bond.  They believe he is a danger to the community and a flight risk because of dual German citizenship.  Character letters have been submitted on McCaughey's behalf describing him as a respectful, hardworking young man who volunteered for community events and worked consistently for the Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra, and loved his now-deceased cat, Gracie. The  bond hearing is scheduled for 3pm.  His attorney suggested a real estate bond for his father’s South Salem house which carries a value of about $450,000, in addition to surety bonds in the amount of $250,000. McCaughey’s father would also be willing to post an additional $150,000 surety bond, according to the proposal, and accept a lien in favor of the government on a property he owns in Maine worth about $150,000. McCaughey would be willing to wear a GPS tracking device, seek and obtain employment right away, surrender any passport in his name and limit his travel to Connecticut and the Southern District of New York.

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Dump truck overturns on highway snarling morning commute

Two passersbys helped rescue a dump truck driver from an early morning accident.  The truck overturned on an embankment early this morning between I-84 Exits 4 and 3.  The crash was reported shortly before 6am.  The dump truck was leaning on a guide rail near the Route 7 split.

According to dispatch reports, two good Samaritans climbed up the side of the truck and helped get the driver out.  The driver appeared unharmed and was evaluated by EMS.

The left lane of the highway was shut down until about 10am.

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Bethel First Selectman offering advice on COVID vaccines, masks

Bethel residents over the age of 65 have two ways to register for a COVID-19 vaccine appointment.  One is with the Bethel-Redding clinic that has been set up specifically for local residents, and with the Vaccine Administration Management System, VAMS.

First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker advised all eligible residents to register with both and accept the first appointment that is offered. Online registration forms can be accessed on the town's website and the state's online portal.

While the CDC hasn't come out with a formal recommendation, the agency is now saying extra precautions work in fighting the spread of COVID-19.  Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says recent students have shown that “double-masking” can reduce transmissibility of the COVID virus by up to 97.5%.

Several of the more virulent forms of the virus have been found in the state, so health authorities advise everyone to be extra cautious this winter season.

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New Fairifeld Library offering IRS tax form instruction booklets to residents

New Fairfield Library has received the IRS Tax Forms 1040 and 1040-SR Booklet and the 1040 and 1040-SR Instructions. Copies may be picked up during the library's front door service hours.  Those are Monday and Wednesdays 4pm to 6pm and Tuesdays, Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays 10am to noon.

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Brookfield opens new outdoor skating rink

The Town of Brookfield has opened a new outdoor skating rink.  The facility at Williams Park opened January 30th.  The idea to create an outdoor rink was first discussed about three months ago and Brookfield was able to move quickly, at little cost, to set it up.  Brookfield Department of Public Works and Parks and Rec staff helped prepare the area, and the fire department filled in the rink with over 14,000 gallons of water.  Only 20 people can to use it at once. If there is a line, skating time is limited to 45 minutes.

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Gov. proposing expansion of 'open choice' program

Governor Ned Lamont says his budget proposal is anchored in five priorities:  Defeating COVID-19, investing in infrastructure, modernizing state government, an economy that works for all and creating a more affordable Connecticut through investment in education, support to small businesses and workforce development.

With many urban schools crowded and their suburban schools with extra capacity, Lamont is proposing an expansion of the open choice program, starting with Norwalk and Danbury.  He says kids can go to school in a more diverse environment with greater opportunity. The budget provides $275,000 in the first year and $900,000 in the second for a pilot program for 50 students from each municipality in the 2022-2023 school year.

The state pays between $3,000 and $8,000 per participant, depending on the number of children in the program compared to students in the district, according to the Open Choice website.

 

 

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New York opens COVID-19 vaccine eligibility to more industries

A list of vaccine providers in Putnam County can now be found on the county's website.  The list will be updated weekly as Putnam County receives information from New York State. A first dose vaccine clinic is being held today for individuals who work in or live in Putnam County that are employed with Police, Fire, Schools, Daycare, Grocery, Corrections, and newly eligible fields of restaurants, delivery drivers, and for-hire vehicle drivers.  The Putnam County Health Department is not permitted by the state to vaccinate people 65 and older at this time, unless also employed in one of those industries.  County Health officials are asking residents not to sign up if the criteria are not met because you will be turned away at the door.  Local New York health departments must adhere to specific vaccination groups determined by the State Department of Health, or risk losing vaccines the following week.

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Ridgefield hotline fields 150 calls about COVID1-19 vaccine in one day

Today is the first day people 65 and older are able to book appointments in Connecticut for a COVID-19 vaccine.  Ridgefield officials say there are some steps in the process that can be confusing.  They point out that the email address must be all lowercase and can not contain dashes.  People signing up on the actual VAMS site should say NO when asked if you registered because the other form was a request to register.  Ridgefield officials say in some cases, it could take several days for a response from the CDC.  Certain clinics and times are designated for second dose only.  Ridgefield does have a local helpline; open from 9am to 4pm daily.  The five operators fielded 150 calls Tuesday alone with many taking extended time as they try to help navigate VAMS.  The help line number is 203-431-2718. Founders Hall and Ridgefield Social Services are also assisting people.

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Founders Hall to host webinar on COVID-19 vaccine

Founders Hall in Ridgefield is hosting two online presentations about how the COVID-19 vaccine works and and how to get an appointment to be vaccinated.  Experts from RVNAhealth, Ridgefield Library, and the Ridgefield community will lead the presentations on Friday at 1pm and on the 26th at 1pm.  The discussions will cover the science behind the COVID-19 vaccine; an overview of the vaccine roll out operation; and helpful information on getting an appointment in Connecticut.  There will be time for questions and answers.  Participants are asked to register through the library's website for one of the sessions to receive the Zoom webinar link.

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Newtown Board of Selectmen to meet next week on Sandy Hook memorial

The Newtown Board of Selectmen will be taking up the cost of the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial project at their meeting on February 16th.  A referendum is planned for April 27th on the $3.7 million design.   The Board of Selectmen will begin the appropriations process before handing it off to the Board of Finance and finally the Legislative Council on March 3rd.  The construction schedule includes an early summer start.  The plan is to have most of the work complete by the end of the season next year.  The planting season will be the Spring of 2022.  Once the site is cleared, excavated and fill is removed, the designers say they'll have a better ides of the shape of the land.

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New Milford Public Works fix up plow trucks after busy few weeks

New Milford Mayor Pete Bass says some Department of Public Works crews yesterday inspected plow trucks and equipment, making sure any necessary repairs got to the mechanics and they are up and ready to go for today's storm event. Crews were also out yesterday clearing cul de sacs to help out plow drivers, and getting to areas like radio towers, Native Meadows, and a few other locations.

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New Milford seeks non-clinical volunteers to help at vaccination site

As the state continues to expand more opportunities for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, clinics are seeking volunteers to assist at those sites.  New Milford Mayor Pete Bass says the need for volunteers to help with the process is rising as the State opened up appointments to residents 65 and older. For those Seniors that have already filled out a pre-application form, those names are already being entered into the system. 

New Milford is looking for help from the public to staff vaccination clinics to expedite the process.  They are needed for non-clinical tasks such as validating appointment and ID, providing follow up vaccination cards, making sure patients wait about 15 minutes before leaving, and parking lot guides. 

Residents interested in volunteering should contact the Vaccination Volunteer Hotline @ 860-355-6059 or email nmvolunteers@newmilford.org.  Volunteers should be in good overall health, have transportation, experience with using a computer to enter data and have flexibility in scheduling.

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Charges dismissed against former Newtown man accused of stealing from employer

Charges have been dismissed against a former Newtown man accused of stealing from his former employer.  The judge dropped the case yesterday against Kyle Lyddy, who  confessed to stealing $135,000 from a marketing company in Norwalk.  The 34-year old successfully completed a court diversionary program for first time offenders and paid restitution to Match Marketing Group.  Lyddy pleaded guilty last year to a felony charge of first-degree larceny.  Two other employees were caught up in the theft of nearly half a million dollars. Lyddy resigned as campaign manager for independent gubernatorial candidate Oz Griebel and from the Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial Commission.

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Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial design headed to referendum

The proposed Sandy Hook Permanent Memorial design is finally headed to Newtown voters.  The $3.7 million living memorial will be put to a referendum on April 27.  Town officials selected San Francisco architects, one whom is a Connecticut native, as the designers in 2018.  SWA was selected from a field of 188 bidders.  The plan has been scaled back significantly, from the original $10-million proposal.  Public outreach about the memorial is expected to begin early next month.

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Danbury in good shape on supply, budget to respond to more snow

There are several more snow storms forecast for this month.  Danbury Mayor Joe Cavo says the City is going through its supply of salt and sand, but has not exhausted its stockpile yet.  He notes that rising snowbanks are an issue and he's working with the Public Works Department about where to move snow if significant totals continue to drop.  Cavo added that the budgeted overtime this year should cover any work that's needed to clean up from future storms.  With yesterday's snow, Cavo says a parking ban wasn't needed because the clean up could be done around anyone who may have left their cars along the streets. 

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Danbury Schools use buses to deliver free meals to students

Danbury Schools are using their buses on Wednesdays to deliver 7 days of meals directly to resident's homes.  The district has been providing free breakfast and lunch grab and go meals to children under age 18 while students were on remote learning.  Now that schools are in hybrid mode, some students are still learning from home. Danbury school officials want to continue reaching all children.  Wednesday is the day that all students are learning from home and won't need district-provided transportation.  Delivery begins next Wednesday for those who have signed up.

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Bethel, Redding COVID-19 vaccine clinic continues to book appointments

This past Saturday, Bethel and Redding held their second COVID-19 vaccine clinic.  Another 300 residents in the 75 and over age group received vaccinations. Staff continues to contact preregistered residents in this group this week to schedule appointments for when the next shipment of vaccines arrive. 

The Bethel COVID-19 vaccine clinic is being supplied the Moderna vaccine. Residents are monitored by medical personnel for at least 15 minutes after receiving the injection. To date there have been no adverse reactions or side effects with this vaccine. 

69-percent of Redding residents over the age of 75 have received their first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.  Health Director Doug Hartline says the clinic site, run in conjunction with the Town of Bethel, is spacious, safe, and favorable for those in this age group. Redding has been calling and making appointments for those who pre-registered on the Redding website. 

The sign up is now open for those who are 65 and up.  Redding will soon be using the Redding Community Center for clinics.

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Bethel schools offer weekend pick up of grab-and-go meals for upcoming winter break

Bethel Public Schools are closed next Monday and Tuesday for Presidents Day weekend.  Any family looking to order breakfast and lunch for children can pick up grab and go meals on Saturday morning, if a request is submitted by this Friday morning.  There is a form on the district's website and Facebook page to fill out to make that request.  Bethel Schools free meals are delivered at the high school from 10:30am to 11:30am.

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Congresswoman appointed chair of nutrition subcommittee

5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes is now Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations.  Hayes says SNAP benefits were a lifesaver for her as she worked multiple low wage jobs while attending school and raising her young family. As a teacher in a Title I school district, 100% of students received free and reduced price lunch.  Hayes notes that she takes on this position amidst a national hunger crisis.  She has been working to ensure all children have access to healthy school meals, bolster SNAP, and eradicate hunger.  Hayes added that she's pleased to carry on the work of Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm, a tireless champion of anti-hunger policy and architect of the SNAP for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program.

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Danbury man arrested for alleged home invasion, assault

A Danbury man has been arrested on charges of home invasion and assault during an alleged domestic disturbance.  Police responded to Midfield Road early Saturday morning on a report of a man breaking into the home, breaking several items of furniture and assaulting the resident.  25-year old Xavier Michael Bishop was also charged with threatening, criminal mischief and disorderly conduct.  The woman was treated at Danbury Hospital for what appeared to be non-life threatening injuries.  Bishop also faces charges of illegal possession of a weapon in a motor vehicle and illegal operation of a motor vehicle under suspension.

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Danbury COVID-19 cases decline by half from previous week

Over the weekend, Danbury reported 73 new COVID-19 cases, split nearly evenly from Saturday and Sunday.  Yesterday, Danbury reported another 32 new cases of COVID-19.  Last week there were a total of 65 cases reported, about half the caseload from the week before.  In January, Danbury had 1,066 cases of COVID-19 reported.  The previous two months saw reports of about 1,600 cases each.  The January total is slightly less than the first peak of the pandemic in April when Danbury reported 1,100 positive COVID-19 cases, but down significantly from the peak of the second wave.

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Carmel restaurant owner, municipal employee pleads guilty to illegal sewer hook up

Town of Carmel Board Member Michael Barile has pleaded guilty to one count of Theft of Services.  He admitted in court, as the co-owner of Blu Restaurant, to illegally connecting the restaurant’s waste system to the public sewer system without permission or authority to do so.  Putnam County District Attorney Robert Tendy says he avoided having to pay for using the sewer system as he would otherwise have been required to do.  Barile had previously been served with multiple Notifications of Violation and Cease and Desist orders from the Town of Carmel for the unlawful sewer connection.  He and Blu’s co-owner agreed to pay a $105,000 fine to the Town.  The Judge sentenced Barile to a conditional discharge.

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Monroe woman pleads guilty to odometer roll back scheme

A Monroe woman has pleaded guilty to her role in an odometer roll back scheme.  48-year old Susan Cunningham pleaded guilty to wire fraud.  According to court documents,  Cunningham and Wilfredo Albanese sold more than 40 vehicles with altered odometers to unsuspecting purchasers while living in Missouri.  U-S Attorney John Durham says the pair purchased high-mileage used vehicles and then used a variety of means to alter or reduce the mileage.  They also allegedly concealed mechanical issues with those vehicles by removing “check engine” lights from the instrument panels, providing buyers with phony maintenance receipts and vehicle history reports.  Cunningham and Albanese obtained Certificates of Title under assumed identities to list and sell the vehicles to customers on Craigslist.  Most of the victim purchasers resided in Missouri.  Sentencing is scheduled for April 30th.  Cunningham is released pending sentencing.

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Public hearing in Bethel tonight about affordable housing application

A public hearing is being held in Bethel tonight about an affordable housing application.  The Planning and Zoning Commission is holding a virtual listening session about Victorian Heron LLC's proposal to create 11 affordable units at 28 South Street.  6 of the units would be located in an existing multi-family dwelling at the address.  Half of those apartments are rented through the Danbury Housing Program and the applicant wants to add five more units.  The site plan for the little more than 3-quarters of an acre calls for five 11-hundred square foot apartments with patios, 20 parking spaces and a widening of the existing driveway.  The Zoom public hearing is at 7pm.  The Planning and Zoning Commission recently denied a proposal for affordable units at 9 Good Hill Road and 47 Shelley Road by different developers.

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New Fairfield Food Pantry seeks donations

The Food Pantry located at New Fairfield Congregational Church on Gillotti Road is again in need of certain items.  While the pantry is in good shape for most non-perishables, they are looking for donations of diapers, baby wipes, paper towels, and laundry detergent.  Some food items they're looking to collect include spaghetti sauce, jelly, canned fruit and vegetables, baking powder, and baking soda. The drop off days are Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday between 9am and 11am.  Distribution is done on Thursdays from 3pm to 4pm and on Saturdays between 11am and noon.  Anyone who can't get to the drop off or distribution times is asked to call the Congregational Church of New Fairfield office at 203-746-2865 and they can arrange an alternative time.

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Brookfield makes progress on vaccinating residents 75 and older

62 percent of Brookfield residents 75 and older have received the first shot of a COVID-19 vaccine.  Over 400 people have been vaccinated at Brookfield’s clinics, many others have made appointments through the CDC Vaccine Administration Management System for their shot.  Brookfield has COVID-19 vaccine clinics set up for all of February on Thursdays and Fridays. In order for Brookfield, and other municipalities, to be eligible to receive the vaccine, the town has to establish clinics before the local health department knows exactly how many doses of the vaccine it will get each week. First Selectman Steve Dunn says it's possible that Brookfield will not be given enough vaccine for all of the clinics set up. He says is a problem across the State and most likely will not change until more vaccine becomes available.

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Greater Danbury area cleans up from one storm, prepares for another

Danbury has temporarily lifted the Level 1 snow emergency put in place yesterday at the start of the storm.  The parking ban is likely to make a comeback tomorrow as more snow is expected.  The Danbury Public Works Department continues to work throughout neighborhoods, pushing back snow and clearing sight lines at intersections. 

Bethel and Danbury officials are reminding property owners that it's their responsibility to clear snow from the sidewalk in front of their home or business.  The municipality is not responsible.  The leaders of both are asking that residents and commercial property owners help keep the sidewalks safe for school children and other pedestrians. 

New Milford Department of Public Works crews are out today making sure all roads are clear from yesterday's storm.  They are working on a few areas that need snow removal, shelving town owned sidewalks and getting equipment ready for another round of snow forecasted for early tomorrow morning and throughout the day.

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Grants offered to women-owned, minority-owned businesses

New Milford Mayor Pete Bass is sharing information from the Women’s Business Development Council.  The organization is making grants of up to $10,000 available to qualified small business owners who live in Connecticut.  Grants are available to women–owned and/or minority–owned businesses in Connecticut and are designed to help these businesses pivot, expand or restructure during the pandemic.  https://ctwbdc.org/equity-match-grant-program/  Applicants are required to match 25% of the grant funding with their own money.

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Driver crashes into sign, woodpile in Bethel

A car crashed into a giant wood pile in Bethel early yesterday morning.  Stony Hill Volunteer Fire Company responded to the crash site, just down the road from the fire station.  A vehicle went off the roadway between Terrace Drive and Benedict Road.  The driver hit the sign for a Lebanese restaurant before crashing into the wood pile.  The driver was evaluated on scene and refused transport to the hospital

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Danbury helps seniors with booking appointments, transportation to COVID-19 vaccine clinic

Danbury's 14 day average of COVID-19 cases stands at 47-point-2 per 100,000 residents.  The positivity rate over the past 14 days is 6.6 percent.  The state is currently vaccinating people in group 1a and people over age 75.  Acting Health Department Director Kara Prunty says the City is holding clinics every day, and have vaccinated just shy of 2,400 people as of Tuesday.  The Health Department is working with community partners to help seniors book appointments and on transportation needs.  Any Danbury senior needing assistance are encouraged to call the health department or the state help line, as Danbury is part of the state scheduling system.  Mayor Joe Cavo says various City departments received over 600 calls from seniors in the first couple of days, trying to be first in line for the shot, but it took the state 3 or 4 days to get the appointment system up and running.  He notes that staff took down everyone's information to get them ready for the VAMS system and called it a wild few days.

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Brookfield COVID-19 caseload declining, but still high

In the last two weeks reported, Brookfield has had 122 new cases of COVID-19 in town.  That moves the rate per 100,000 residents to 51.3. Positivity rate for Brookfield is now 7.5 percent, down from 7.8 percent last week. Cases last week were 66, up from the 56 reported for the prior week.  First Selectman Steve Dunn says the trends overall are moving in the right direction but are higher than many towns. Brookfield remains in the Red Zone. All but 8 municipalities in Connecticut are at the state's highest alert level for COVID-19 spread.  He noted that 62 percent of Brookfield residents 75 and older have been vaccinated. 

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Parks and Rec to resume some indoor programs at Redding Community Center

The Redding Health Department has give the go ahead for Parks and Rec to resume some indoor programs at the Redding Community Center.  Things were shut down in November due to the surge in coronavirus cases across the state.  The Health Department says limited fitness classes and pickleball can resume.  The Parks and Rec Department last week announced that they plan to offer summer camp this year.  Concerts and the reopening of Topstone Park are also being planned, but things could change depending on the state of the pandemic later on this year. 

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Danbury students benefit from LEGO Group's Replay Program

More than 3,000 first graders in Danbury, Hartford, and New Britain has received a gift from the Connecticut State Department of Education and the LEGO Group.  To date more than 6,500 students across the state have received boxes of LEGO brick to encourage them to continue to learn through play while at home and in the classroom.  The initiative is part of the LEGO Group’s Replay Program, where people can ship their pre-loved LEGOs, for free, to a Give Back Box facility where it will be inspected, sanitized and repackaged for kids across the country.  Each box has an instruction booklet with ideas for dozens of builds, as well as play prompts.

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Redding First Selectman vaccinated against COVID-19

Redding First Selectman Julia Pemberton has received her second dose of vaccine.  She is signed up as a volunteer vaccinator at the local clinic, held in conjunction with Bethel, and is a registered EMT, though doesn't usually go out on calls.  Pemberton told The Newstimes that she did not register for the vaccine herself but the fire department registered her when it entered first responders into the Vaccine Administration Management System. Redding and Bethel expect to receive a shipment of 300 vaccine doses, split between the towns based on population. 120 doses will go to Redding and 180 to Bethel.

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Freshman lawmaker proposes Candlewood Marine Patrol officers be allowed to carry guns

A freshman lawmaker has proposed clearing the way for Candlewood Lake Authority Marine Patrol members to carry firearms while on duty.  New Fairfield Representative Patrick Callahan, introduced a bill that would require Connecticut to provide firearms training for lake patrol officers. 

24 seasonal officers patrol the lake. 

Callahan says this summer was a crazy one with more people using the lake, crowding the closed islands and trashing them and boats tying together for rafting parties. 

The Candlewood Lake Authority has not yet discussed this bill, but a similar measure was discussed a decade ago.  There were questions by the towns about higher insurance costs for officers carrying firearms.  The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection ruled that the only lake patrol officers who could carry firearms were those with training certification typical of an active-duty police officer. 

Callahan’s legislation would make it mandatory, instead of optional, that lake authorities indemnify lake patrolmen while acting in the scope of their employment.

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Ridgefield Police, Fire propose consolidation of dispatching

Ridgefield first responders have proposed merging dispatch units.  During a budget proposal to the Board of Selectmen late last week, the police and fire departments suggested a consolidation, combining both departments’ dispatch efforts and hiring additional help.  A fire dispatcher would join the police dispatcher and each would be trained in the other's field.  Emergency calls for fire or EMS in Ridgefield currently go to the police dispatch center and then is transferred to the fire department.  Each dispatcher then has to get basic caller information in case the call drops.  Fire Chief Jerry Myers added that while dispatchers are on a call, they aren’t able to answer other calls or alert responding units to the situation.

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Danbury seeks grant for special police assignment

A special assignment opportunity for the Danbury Police Department has been approved by the City Council.  A grant application has been submitted to accept partial salary reimbursement for an officer now assigned to the Connecticut Intelligence Center's Regional Intelligence Liaison Officer Program.

The Connecticut Intelligence Center collects, analyzes and provides criminal and terrorism-related intelligence to law enforcement agencies in the state.  The Center was formed after 9/11.

12 officers applied and Chief Patrick Ridenhour says they narrowed the field to four.  State staff made the final selection.  That officer began training in September.  The state is offering $60,000 reimbursement via a federal grant.  That leaves about 30-percent of the officer's salary and benefits, which the city will continue to cover. 

The Danbury officer covers most of Fairfield County as there are only 5 liaisons in the state.  Ridenhour says this gives Danbury the opportunity to have someone there if the Department needs immediate information to analyze something.   He added that Danbury has a lot of businesses and critical infrastructure, so that officer can get information in real time over any concerns. 

The officer works mainly in Middletown, but has space at the Danbury station and is considered part of Danbury’s 139 active duty officers.  The officer is still eligible for overtime and other city-specific duties. Ridenhour sees the position as a force multiplier, as opposed to losing someone in terms of authorized strength.

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Connecticut state auditor, ex-state senator Kane dies at 53

WATERTOWN, Conn. (AP) — State Auditor Robert Kane, a former Connecticut state senator, was found dead Friday by police making a check at his home at the request of his family.

Kane, 53, “took pride in his public service on behalf of his constituents, understanding he was their voice,” said Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont in a statement.

“He then assumed the role of state auditor, working on behalf of all taxpayers,” Lamont said. “All public servants should be commended for their work on behalf of our residents, and Rob took his work seriously. He will be missed at the Capitol.”

Kane had been a Republican state senator for 8 years, until his appointment as state auditor in 2017.

Connecticut Senate Republican Leader Kevin Kelly said Kane served with “skill, style and compassion.”

“We in the state senate were proud to call him our friend and colleague,” he said. “We will miss his smile, his laugh, and his positive presence at the State Capitol.”

Watertown Police Chief Joshua Bernegger told the Republican-American that the cause of Kane’s death was unknown, and an autopsy was scheduled for Saturday.

News outlets report Kane is survived by two children.

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Nearly half of Bethel residents over 75 receive first COVID-19 shot

Bethel’s COVID-19 vaccine clinic, run in cooperation with the town of Redding began operations last weekend.  They administered 100 doses, 60 to Bethel residents and 40 to Redding residents, all 75 and older.  To date, about 45% all Bethel residents over age 75 have been vaccinated, the majority via the Vaccine Administration Management System scheduling system.

 

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New Milford Police raising funds for Special Olympics

The New Milford Police Department is raising funds for this year's Special Olympics Torch Run.  The department is selling shirts to benefit the Summer Games.  Anyone interesting is asked to contact Officer Dylan McIntyre for more information at dmcintyre@newmilfordpolice.org or 860-355-3133 ext. 2470.  All funds raised go directly to Connecticut Special Olympics. 

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Engineering report finalized on Bethel Police Station leak, Charter Commission seeks referendum

The Bethel Utilities Department will be replacing some Meter Reading Devices, the Meter Interrogator Units.  The work is being done by a town employee who has a photo identification card and is driving a Utility Department vehicle.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says the work takes only a few minutes and involves replacement of this existing surface mounted unit which is located on the outside of residential and commercial structures.  Anyone with questions or concerns is asked to call the Public Works office at 203-794-8549 to verify.

A final engineering report on the Bethel Police Station Training Range has been sent to the chair of the Bethel Public Sites and Buildings Commission.  Downes construction also received a copy.  A meeting to discuss the resolution is being set for next week. During heavy rain storms, water seeps through the brick and experts disagree on why and how to fix it.  Officers moved into the new police station in October 2018.

A committee in Bethel is considering changes to the town charter.  Due to crowd restrictions implemented by Governor Lamont in an executive order from the start of the pandemic, town meeting gatherings are not allowed.  An executive order will be necessary in order to proceed with a referendum.  Charter commission attorney Nick Vitti is drafting suggested language for consideration by the office of the governor.

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Danbury schools look to deliver meals to student homes

The Danbury Public School District is looking to make it easier for families to get free meals for children.  The district has been distributing grab-and-go meals at the schools for breakfast and lunch, available to any child under 18.  Danbury now has a form parents can fill out if they want meals delivered to their home on Wednesdays.  The Schools will be delivering 7 days of meals per child. Delivery begins February 17th.

 

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Purse stolen from unlocked car in Newtown

A pocketbook was recently reported stolen from an unattended car in Newtown.  The vehicle was parked on Philo Curtis Road midday Tuesday when the owner was sledding at Treadwell Park.  The car was left unlocked.  Newtown police are reminding residents to not leave valuables in unlocked cars and to lock unattended vehicles.  Anyone who may have seen any suspicious activity is asked to call the Newtown Police Department at 203-426-5841.

 

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Juvenile arrested for alleged Easton car break-ins

A juvenile has been arrested for allegedly stealing items from parked cars in Easton. Police received a call early yesterday morning from a Bayberry Lane resident about vehicles in his driveway being entered.  The resident followed the getaway car a short distance, while an Easton officer saw the suspect heading south on Route 59 at a high rate of speed.  The officer did not chase the vehicle onto the Merritt Parkway northbound as a safety precaution, but did come across it, crashed, a short time later.  One person was taken into custody.  Another suspect fled the scene on foot and was not apprehended.  The crashed car was reported stolen out of Waterbury last Wednesday.  The juvenile was charged with larceny and simple trespass and released to a parent.  Easton Police Chief Richard Doyle urged all residents to not leave their keys and valuables in their vehicles, and to make sure they lock their vehicles.

 

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Congresswoman votes 'in defense of district' to strip colleague of committee assignment

Congresswoman Jahana Hayes, whose district includes Newtown, was in the chair to announce the vote tally on the Marjorie Taylor Greene resolution stripping her Georgia colleague of committee assignments.  In defense of her vote, Hayes said she called it an act of conscience, in defense of her district.  Among the 11 Republicans voting with the majority were some members from Florida.  Greene has previously said she believed the shootings at Sandy Hook School and Parkland were staged.  New York Republicans also voted with the majority as Greene had previously stated that she believed 9/11 was an inside job. 

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Danbury accepts donation of police substation, police communication upgrades

The west side of Danbury continues to grow and that means there's greater need for emergency response.  At the Danbury City Council meeting Tuesday night, members accepted a donation from The Summit for a police substation, valued at $161,000.  The substation also comes with improvements to police radio coverage on the west side. 

Chief Patrick Ridenhour says radio coverage has been spotty in areas of the west side, which can compromise officers and public safety.  Councilman Fred Visconti called the radios a great addition and that for public safety to work the right way, Danbury needs a communication center. 

The Summit is a commercial and residential development in the former Matrix building, with plans for 200 to 400 apartments.  The police substation will be on the ground level, across from the lobby in the Summit building.  There are also growing developments in nearby Abbey Woods and Rivington. 

Ridenhour says the satellite office means officers won't have to come back to headquarters on Main Street to follow up on calls for service, get supplies, write reports, make calls, and other tasks. 

The fire department has already upgraded its radio system.  Motorola Solutions plans to install an ultra-high frequency, IP analog simulcast system with transmit and receive systems at WLAD, Danbury Hospital and Abbey Woods. Norcom CT will handle the antenna.

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Local lawmaker introduces bill creating permanent cannabis commission

State Labor Committee Chair Danbury State Senator Julie Kushner has introduced legislation to establish a permanent cannabis commission, a long-term cannabis jobs training program and an equity focused task force.  The bill will be up for a public hearing on Tuesday. 

Kushner says as the state considers a whole new industry in legal cannabis, which has the potential to create thousands of new jobs, other aspects should be considered from the very beginning.  The bill, among other things creates a framework for 6 license types: Cultivation, Manufacturing, Retail, Testing Lab, Delivery, and Microbusiness.  With Labor Peace Agreements and equity provisions, Kushner says the state can ensure that these are good jobs with good benefits for all. 

The proposal would also allow for increased Research at the UConn Cannabis Sciences department, and allow for adults over the age of 21 to grow up to 6 plants at home.

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Danbury Health Department reaching out to seniors to help with COVID-19 vaccine scheduling

Danbury is actively vaccinating area residents 75 and older at the Danbury Health Department Clinic. The Health Department is calling residents directly to schedule appointments in an effort to support older residents who have had technological challenges with the Vaccine Administration Management System, including those who do not have access to the internet/email.

The Danbury Clinic is open by appointment only for eligible individuals in 1a and the first part of 1b. The clinic is only administering the Moderna vaccine.

Eligible individuals with internet access and email addresses should book their appointments through VAMS if possible.  Anyone who knows someone 75 and up having trouble with the VAMS system can fill out a form on the City's website, and then will receive a call back from the Health Department. 

Residents 75+ can also schedule over the phone by calling the CT COVID Vaccine Appointment Assist Line at 877-918-2224. The Vaccine Appointment Assist Line is available seven days a week from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Residents who call the CT COVID Vaccine Line can ask to schedule their appointment at the Danbury Health Department Clinic.

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Congressman holds hearing on pandemic relief for small businesses

4th District Congressman Jim Himes has led a virtual committee hearing to examine how government aid from the CARES Act and subsequent economic rescue bills was accessible to small and minority-owned businesses.  Himes says it's vital to understand why  aid to minority-owned businesses was delayed, while other well-connected businesses that were hurting less made their way to the front of the line.  He notes that the way these programs were structured allowed larger businesses and those with more established banking relationships to have greater access to funds than small and minority-owned businesses.

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Bridgewater moves out of Conn. Red Alert Zone

Bridgewater has moved out of the state's red zone when it comes to the prevalence of coronavirus.  The state Department of Public Health released its weekly COVID-19 Alert Map yesterday, which indicates that 161 of 169 towns and cities are currently in the red zone alert level, the highest of the state’s four alert levels.  Bridgewater only reported 1 COVID-19 case.  The other municipalities are all in the gray zone and also include Canaan, Colebrook, Cornwall, Norfolk, Scotland, Union, and Warren.

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Bethel Veterinary Hospital teams up with Bethel Animal Control

Bethel Veterinary Hospital has teamed up with Bethel Animal Control to donate a microchip scanner to the police department.  If a Bethel pet goes missing and is recovered by one of the officers, they will now have the capability to scan for a microchip and reunite residents with the animal.  Bethel Animal Control says microchipping can be done in a matter of minutes and is a life saving tool that helps thousands of lost pets reunite with their owners.

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Danbury Hospital to get additional federal coronavirus relief

An additional 40 million dollars from Connecticut's share of federal coronavirus support is headed to Connecticut’s acute care hospitals to bolster their work responding to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Danbury Hospital will receive $3.2 million from the state.  The funding is being distributed to non-governmental, short-term general hospitals that meet certain requirements. It supplements the over $980 million direct federal funding received by the hospitals to date during the pandemic. The hospitals will be required to allocate at least 15 percent of their Coronavirus Relief Fund payments to eligible physician groups or ambulatory surgical centers that are enrolled in Connecticut’s Medicaid program and are formally affiliated with the hospital.  Budget Secretary Melissa McCaw says this will target some of the reimbursement for COVID-related costs specifically for providers who are supporting Connecticut residents, including Medicaid members, in continuing to access primary care and support with chronic conditions, both in person and via telehealth.

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Local lawmaker calls for renewed focus on internet security

Kent State Representative Maria Horn wants renewed focus on internet security.  She says scammers have been adjusting their tactics to try to steal people's personal information, noting that phishing attempts have evolved.  Her husband recently received a text from someone who knew part of his social security number, and claimed to be reaching out to protect him from fraud.  He recognized it to be a scam, and reported it to the Federal Trade Commission.  Horn says anyone receiving a suspect communication asking for private information, or to click on a link should report it to the FTC, and the local police department.

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Brookfield revaluation team to go out next week

The 2021 property revaluation process is underway in Brookfield.  Streets and Condominiums the revaluation team will be visiting next week are listed on the Assessor's page of the town's website. The revaluation team will knock on resident's door to let homeowners know they are doing the revaluation but they will not ask to come into the house. Condo complexes include Laurel Hill Ct,  Oak Meadows,  Riverview Ct, Silvermine Manor, Mill River Vws and possibly Newbury Cross.

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Stony Hill firefighters launch hydrant clearing contest

Locating and shoveling out a fire hydrant takes up precious time when firefighters arrive at the scene of an emergency.  Stony Hill Volunteer Fire Company is challenging Bethel residents who are able, to shovel out the fire hydrant near their house. Ideally that's 3 feet in all directions with a clear path to the curb.  A picture afterward can be sent to PIO@stonyhillfd.com to be entered to win a SHFD T Shirt. The drawing will be done on Monday at Noon.

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Redding Parks and Rec making plans for summer programming

Redding Park and Recreation is planning to offer their popular Day Camp program this summer.  The department plans to share details in April.  Parks and Rec is planning to open Topstone Park on a normal schedule May 29th.  Redding typically opens weekends only until mid-June when the park opens daily.  Parks and Rec also plans to offer Sunday night summer Concerts on the Green series.

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New Milford Economic Development Director leaving for Mass. company

New Milford Economic Development Director Karen Pollard is leaving for a position with Waterstone Properties Group in Massachusetts as Director of Development.  Mayor Pete Bass says Pollard will be assuming that role at the end of  this month and will continue as the town's Economic Development Director until then.  With New Milford's new commercial construction growth of about 32-million from April 2009 when Pollard arrived, the town has been positioning itself for continued future growth.  Bass praised her efforts during the pandemic to help New Milford provide PPE and sneezeguards to the small business community as well as small business grants and loans.  She was also assisting the Riverfront Revitalization and Long Term Recovery Committee and Sustainable CT teams.

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Danbury schools seek help for before, after school care program

The Danbury Public School District has openings for Program Associates to work in the Extended Learning Program.  The before and after school care program openings are in all of the elementary schools.  The hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Fridays 12:30 to 6.  Applicants must be First Aid and CPR certified. 

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Volunteer firefighter suspended indefinitely over old social media posts

A volunteer firefighter in New Fairfield has been suspended indefinitely over old social media posts.  The Volunteer Fire Department concluded an investigation of a complaint made against a member of the Ball Pond Volunteer Fire Company.  The complaint was made to First Selectman Pat Del Monaco about blatantly sexist, homophobic and racist videos posted last spring. 

Fire company officials say the group called Concerned Citizens of New Fairfield found the videos deeply offensive to members of the community.  None of the posts were made on firehouse property, nor using any firehouse equipment or involving any other firehouse members or during firehouse activities, but the investigating committee also found the posts to be offensive, to be in violation of Department policy, and in violation of the standards they expect all members to follow. 

While the Board of Trustees said they don't handle personnel issues in public, they feel the fire department owes an apology to the public for these regrettable actions. 

The member involved will be taking a series of six classes designed for public servants that cover the issues involved.  A plan is being developed to ensure that all 140 members of the Department receive training in these same issues.    

The department's statement said, in part, "we are heartsick that the thoughtless actions of one member may have damaged our relationship with the community, and we want you all to know that anyone who needs our services has always and will always receive them as quickly as we can respond without regard to race, ethnicity, gender, etc."

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Local fire departments awarded FEMA grants

The New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department has been awarded a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant.  The Department will receive about $11,500 in direct assistance grants.  FEMA also awarded the Monroe Volunteer Fire Department $6,400.  Authorized and funded through the Coronavirus CARES Act, the supplemental funding is meant to support the purchase of personal protective equipment and related disinfectant supplies and equipment to help the fire services prevent, prepare for and respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. 98 volunteer and combination fire departments nationwide were awarded funding. By law, 25 percent of the available funds must be awarded to volunteer fire departments and another 25 percent must be awarded to combination fire departments.

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Putnam County administers first follow up dose of Moderna vaccine

The Putnam County Department of Health will begin administering second doses of the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine today in Carmel. Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell says that vaccine requires two doses 28 days apart. Only those who were given the first dose by the Putnam County health department are eligible for a second dose from the department.  Odell says the supply is still limited, but the federal government said it will increase New York State’s vaccine supply by 20 percent for the next three weeks.  The state has very strict requirements on the distribution of the second doses. The health department is not allowed to use any of the second-dose shipment for first doses of the vaccine.  The health department has received a shipment of 900 doses for second-dose use.  Two more clinics will be held next week, one in Carmel on Monday,and the other in Philipstown on Thursday.  

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Plan developed for unplanned excess COVID-19 vaccine doses at New Fairfield/Sherman clinic

New Fairfield officials have received several questions about how extra or unplanned leftover doses of COVID-19 vaccine at the end of each clinic day will be distributed.  Town officials say they expect to have fewer than 10 excess doses at the end of each day that are the result of cancelled appointments and partially used vials. 

New Fairfield officials promised that none will go to waste as they have developed a protocol for using them, consistent with State guidance on vaccination eligibility.  In Connecticut, eligibility is driven by age, recognizing that close to 85% of COVID deaths occur in people over the age of 65. 

Clinic staff will begin by calling those residents over 75 years of age that have appointments scheduled for later in February.  If, after contacting those individuals, there are still excess vaccine available, they will contact residents over the age of 70 with underlying health conditions.  This list has been generated using contact information received on the “Underlying Health Condition” forms provided to the Health Department in the fall. 

They will reach out to residents in the order in which they received their forms. 

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Redding skate rink damaged, possibly intentionally

The Redding Parks and Rec skating rink is closed to the public after the ice was damaged.  Parks and Recreation Director Robert Blick says employees discovered a hole in the center of the rink Sunday, which was probably caused by misuse and he can only assume it was done on purpose.  The department was attempting to fix the issue, but the problem was made worse by Monday's snowstorm.  The ice is now buried under a thick layer of snow, which has to be cleared so the hole can be fixed.  The ice must be melted a bit, covered in water, and allowed to freeze again.  The rink is temporarily closed until the fix can be made.  It only reopened about two weeks ago.

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Plan developed for unplanned excess COVID-19 vaccine doses at New Fairfield/Sherman clinic

New Fairfield officials have received several questions about how extra or unplanned leftover doses of COVID-19 vaccine at the end of each clinic day will be distributed.  Town officials say they expect to have fewer than 10 excess doses at the end of each day that are the result of cancelled appointments and partially used vials. 

New Fairfield officials promised that none will go to waste as they have developed a protocol for using them, consistent with State guidance on vaccination eligibility.  In Connecticut, eligibility is driven by age, recognizing that close to 85% of COVID deaths occur in people over the age of 65. 

Clinic staff will begin by calling those residents over 75 years of age that have appointments scheduled for later in February.  If, after contacting those individuals, there are still excess vaccine available, they will contact residents over the age of 70 with underlying health conditions.  This list has been generated using contact information received on the “Underlying Health Condition” forms provided to the Health Department in the fall. 

They will reach out to residents in the order in which they received their forms. 

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Mark Twain Library hosts presentation on Freedom Riders

Mark Twain Library in Redding is hosting a program tonight called The Freedom Riders - American Heroes In Their Own Words.  Redding, Easton and Weston are co-hosting the community program.  It's a live, virtual conversation with freedom riders Joan Browning and Dion Diamond. The first Freedom Ride began on May 4, 1961, when seven Black and six white riders left Washington, D.C. on two public buses bound for the Deep South. The riders intended to test whether the southern states would enforce the Supreme Court’s ruling that declared segregation in interstate bus and rail stations unconstitutional. The initial ride led to countless Americans joining the Civil Rights movement. Browning and Diamond were on the early freedom rides.  The live stream is at 7:30pm.

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No injuries in overnight fire at Danbury home

No injuries were reported in an overnight fire at a home in Danbury.  A Sage Road homeowner called 911 to summon firefighters to the Lake Waubeeka community shortly after 11 o'clock last night.  Still snowing and with 18 inches of snow on the ground, firefighters arrived to find a house set below the road with heavy flames showing from the rear windows.

(Photo: DFD)

Two people home at the time were evaluated at the scene. 

West Redding and Ridgefield Fire Departments brought their tanker trucks. Danbury had 3 Engines, Truck 1, Rescue 1, and TAC 1, joined by 3 tankers and a squad from the volunteer division. 

The Danbury Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the cause.

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Danbury Health Department makes progress vaccinating seniors

The Danbury Health Department has started administering the COVID-19 vaccine.  The Department has vaccinated 1,664 individuals as of January 25th at the Rogers Park Middle School clinic.  As of yesterday, that was just under 2,400 people. 

According to state Department of Public Health data, Danbury has vaccinated just shy of 40-percent of residents over the age of 75.  

Acting Health Director Kara Prunty says the purpose of the vaccine is to prepare an individual’s immune system for a possible infection in order to minimize the likelihood of severe illness.  She notes that that means it's still necessary to adhere to testing, quarantine, social distancing, and mask-wearing guidelines in order to protect the community against COVID-19.

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Bethel Fire Department starts contest to find 'Hydrant Hero'

The Bethel Fire Department was busy throughout the storm, and afterward digging out fire hydrants buried by the snow.  Members are calling on the Bethel community to help and be a Hydrant Hero.  Anyone who clears a 3-foot radius of a fire hydrant, cleared to the street, is asked to take a selfie and post in the comments on the department's Facebook page.  Bethel Fire officials will be one winner to receive two reflective address signs.  They note that a fire hydrant is useless if it is buried, and during a house fire, having a reliable source of water is crucial to a successful outcome. 

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Local volunteer firefighter attends state acedemy to join career department

Brookfield Volunteer Fire Department Candlewood Company is touting the work of member Troy Morin on starting his training with the Connecticut Fire Academy as a part of Recruit Class 67.  He will be joining the Danbury Fire Department. Morin started at Candlewood Company as a Junior Firefighter and has held many positions from Engineer to Membership Vice President.

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Newtown Police warn of old scams resurfacing

Newtown Police Department is alerting people to some old scams circulating once again.  Some target seniors through the threat of the arrest of a grandchild if money cards aren't sent.  But police say the words of caution are for teens and adults too, especially when trying to sell items on the internet.  Newtown Police say residents can meet the buyer or seller in the police parking lot.

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Local lawmaker introduces bill to restore military benefits to certain veterans

Bethel state Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan has introduced a bill aims to support gay, lesbian and transgender veterans who were discharge from the military or no other reason than their sexual orientation or gender identity.  The proposal would restore state benefits for those Connecticut service members.  Allie-Brennan says the number of Connecticut veterans affected by this is unclear because their discharges could have been logged under mental health or other categories.

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Danbury Public Works to check snow clearing equipment following massive clean up effort

There's more clean up underway in the Greater Danbury area area after another dusting of snow last night coated the region.  Danbury Public Works Director Antonio Iadarola says his crews were prepared for the second major storm in two months because of maintenance done after December's foot-plus snowfall.  There were some hoses and other equipment than needed repairs.   There were some wiring harness fires on pickup trucks because they were working hard and overheated.  When the weather quiets down later today, Iadarola says they'll give the fleet a once-over.  He says so far there's been minimal damage.

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Ridgefield man indicted by federal grand jury in Washington D.C.

A Ridgefield man has been indicted by a federal grand jury in Washington D.C. for his alleged role in pinning a police officer in a door frame during the break-in at the U.S. Capitol building last month. 

Patrick Edward McCaughey III was initially charged January 19th by the U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York.  He was arrested in South Salem, New York.

The nine-count indictment released Monday charges McCaughey with two counts of assaulting, resisting, or impeding certain officers using a dangerous weapon; two counts civil disorder; obstruction of an official proceeding and aiding and abetting; disorderly and disruptive conduct in a restricted building or grounds, with a deadly or dangerous weapon; engaging in physical violence in a restricted building or grounds, with a deadly or dangerous weapon; disorderly conduct in a capitol building; and act of physical violence in the capitol grounds or buildings.

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Putnam County police to step up DWI patrols this weekend

Putnam County Sheriff Deputies and Carmel Police Officers will participate in a special enforcement effort to crack down on impaired driving this weekend.  The stepped up patrols will be in place from Friday through Monday, Super Bowl Weekend.  Sheriff Robert Langley says high-visibility enforcement can reduce impaired driving fatalities by as much as 20 percent. He added that sobriety checkpoints play a key part in raising awareness about the problem.  The Sheriff's Department has a mobile app called “Have a Plan” and it's meant for people to find a safe ride home.  The Statewide STOP-DWI Crackdown Campaign also targets St. Patrick’s Day, Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day Weekend, Halloween and the Holiday Season in December.

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DMV launches pilot program for online license renewals

The Easton Police Department has received several inquiries about a letter residents received from the State of Connecticut Department of Motor Vehicles. The DMV has created a pilot program for online license renewals for certain customers whose licenses expired in early 2020. In order to invite them to renew online, DMV sent letters or e-mails to these individuals. These are legitimate invitations.  Anyone skeptical can check the DMV website for contact information.  But anyone receiving such a letter should follow the instructions to renew their driver license using the online portal. A sample of the letter and link to the online renewal site can be found below.

https://dmv.service.ct.gov/CustomerOnlineServices

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More COVID-19 vaccination clinics added in Ridgefield next week

The COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic at Yanity Gym sponsored by Ridgefield is being held this morning and tomorrow.  First and second doses will be administered.  There will be clinics held on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of next week, with appointments for those time slots added to the Vaccine Administration Management System on a rolling basis as dose availability is confirmed. No walk-ins are accepted at the Ridgefield clinics.  Patients are asked to bring confirmation of appointment, ID and insurance card.  Due to the cold weather a the limited warm waiting areas, patients are asked to arrive no more than five minutes prior to the appointment time.

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59% of eligible New Fairfield seniors vaccinated against COVID-19

The latest data from the Connecticut Department of Public Health for New Fairfield indicates that 369 of 626, or 59%, New Fairfield residents over the age of 75 have been vaccinated.  First Selectman Pat Del Monaco expects that sometime in the next two weeks, individuals over the age of 65 will become eligible for vaccination.  Any New Fairfield resident over 75 and having difficulty navigating the VAMS registration system is urged to contact the Senior Center.  Over the course of the past week, there have been 35 new, confirmed cases of COVID-19 in New Fairfield.   The COVID infection rate is currently 54 cases per 100-thousand people.

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Health officials offer advice about making multiple COVID-19 vaccination appointments

There's some broad agreement among Connecticut leaders and the Putnam County Health Department when it comes to what people should do if they get a COVID-19 vaccine sooner than a scheduled appointment.  If someone made multiple appointments, the advice is to make sure to cancel the later appointment so that someone else can be vaccinated. New York State requires providers to schedule the second dose with the same provider where you receive your first dose.   At most providers, the second dose will be scheduled at the time of the first. Anyone vaccinated at a Putnam County Department of Health clinic will be given a vaccination card with the date of the second does. An email reminder with a special link to complete mandatory registration for the second dose will be sent out. 

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Bethel school officials clarify when to call snow day vs. remote learning

Bethel School Superintendent Dr Christine Carver is explaining the district's decision making process on mode of learning during inclement weather.  Once Bethel schools use the five emergency days built into calendar as typical weather-related closures, the district will transition to using Distance Learning Days rather than calling a snow day.  Today's weather-related closure is the third this year in Bethel.  It brings the last day of school to Friday, June 18th. 

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Greater Danbury area towns clean up after massive snowfall

A parking ban in Danbury has been lifted.  The level two snow emergency designation was called off this afternoon.  Residents had been required to move their cars off city streets to enable an efficient plowing effort.  Patriot Parking Garage in CityCenter was open free of charge during the snow emergency.

A parking ban remains in effect while Easton Highway Department clears and widens roadways. Easton Police asked that residents and business not have their driveways plowed into the road as this causes a hazard for drivers and complicates the clean up efforts. Flurries are still expected on and off throughout the day and windy conditions may also blow snow into the roadway so drivers are urged to use caution if they must venture out today.

New Milford Mayor Pete Bass says snow flurries will continue throughout the say so Department of Public Works crews will continue to be out plowing and treating the roads.  He asked that anyone who has to go out today to leave extra time to clear off cars and get to the intended destination.  Bass also reminded people to stay a safe distance behind plow trucks.

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Special Town Meeting on streetscape in Brookfield postponed

A special town meeting in Brookfield about Streetscape Phase 4 was supposed to be held tonight, but has been postponed.  The $3.6 million project is the latest of the downtown revitalization project phases.  Brookfield will cover about 20 percent of the cost with the state issuing a grant covering 80-percent. 

The temporary new date is February 9th.  The meeting will be held in person.  First Selectman Steve Dunn says there are difficulties in verifying voter identities and residencies when it's a virtual format.  The meeting will be held at the high school auditorium and attendees must wear masks and social distance.

Construction will start on the 3rd phase this summer.  Community Development specialist Greg Dembowski says the phase being voted on is the largest.  Work includes new sidewalks, connecting the northern end of phase one to the Newbury Village condominiums on Federal Road. 

The overall plan also calls for housing, retail, new lampposts, greenery and a multi-use trail at the four-way intersection.

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Two new police officers in New Milford sworn in

Two new members have been sworn in and have joined the New Milford Police Department.  Officer Eric Wilcoxson and Officer John Toromanides took the oath of office on Friday.  . Wilcoxson transferred from the Stratford Police Department and has 3 years experience. Toromanides transferred from the UCONN Police Department where he was a Sergeant and has 10 years experience.  Both officers filled two vacant positions.  They will be training this month and on the road in March. 

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Danbury Police investigating head on collision

Danbury Police are seeking the public's help in their investigation of a car crash that sent three people to the hospital on Sunday.  Officers responded to Clapboard Ridge Road shortly before 9pm on a report os a serious collision.  A Honda CRV was headed south when it crashed into a Honda Accord headed north.  Both operators and a passenger from the Accord were transported to Danbury Hospital.  The Traffic Division is looking for witnesses that might have information to contribute to the investigation. 

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Conn. man allegedly placed video recording device in female locker room at workplace

A Connecticut man has been arrested for allegedly placing a video recording device in the female locker room of his workplace.  Danbury Police arrested 31-year old Matthew Aaron Cooper on Saturday.  He works at a local manufacturing business.  A female employee was able to link the device to the Beacon Falls man and notified her supervisor, who in turn notified the police department.  Evidence was discovered which directly led officers to believe Cooper had placed the recording device in the female locker room to surreptitiously record female employees when they were undressing.  He was charged with Disorderly Conduct and Criminal Attempt to Commit Voyeurism.  After posting bond, he was later released from the police department and is scheduled to appear in court at a later date and time.

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Region 9 Superintendent sings snow day announcement to pop song

A music video snow day announcement is circulating on the web.  Easton, Redding, Region 9 Superintendent Rydell Harrison posted a video yesterday telling students to close their computers, dust off their sleds and take a snow day.  In the YouTube video, Harrison sang and danced to his own version of “Can’t Stop the Feeling” by Justin Timberlake. 

He became Superintendent just last August. 

Harrison donned warm winter gear, jumped into snow banks and warmed up with hot cocoa.  He also spliced in images of the town.  In his previous post in Watertown, Harrison sang a version of Journey’s classic “Don’t Stop Believing” and to Paul McCartney’s “Wonderful Christmastime.”

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New Milford Police Officer on way to swearing-in alerts Newtown homeowner to fire

New Milford's newest police officer is being credited with saving pets from a fire in Newtown.  Eric Wilcoxson was on his way to be sworn in at New Milford Town Hall on Friday when he saw the house fire on Hanover Road.  His wife called 911 while he and his two brothers pounded on the door, gaining the attention of the three residents and ensuring that they were removed to safety.  In addition, four family dogs were saved from the smoke filled house.  Wilcoxson made it to his swearing in on time.  There were no injures reported at the scene of the blaze.  Fire officials say bitter cold temperatures and a light snow challenged their work. Whiteout conditions happened a few times, with white-gray smoke covering the property and surrounding area.

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Putnam County state of emergency continues

There were few power outages in Putnam County by mid-afternoon.  NYSEG is staffed for the storm with 79 contractor crews, 29 wire guards, 34 tree crews, 20 damage assessment crews and 15 internal crews.  Metro-North temporarily suspended service yesterday afternoon due to snow and winds. 

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell declared a state of emergency.  Incident Command Structure identified critical facilities, including the site where Putnam County keeps COVID-19 vaccines to be able to keep them refrigerated.  Odell noted though that the local health department has gotten so few vaccines from the state as it is, they're not going to let a single dose go to waste. 

Hazard crews have been out on the roads since Sunday night. They will continue to be out after the storm, working with the local highway crews throughout the county.

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Ridgefield officials meet about rescheduling today's vaccine clinic

Due to local storm clean-up, and vaccine clinic cancellations from New York to Maine, the Ridgefield Vaccine Clinic schedule for this week remains uncertain.  Town health and emergency management officials will meet with the RVNA this morning to firm up this week’s make-up session.  First Selectman Rudy Marconi says they will try to do this with the least possible inconvenience for Ridgefielders who had been scheduled for the cancelled Tuesday session.  Updates will be posted on the town website and the Ridgefield Office Of Emergency Management Facebook page.

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Candlewood Lake Authority appoints new Marine Patrol Chief

The Candlewood Lake Authority has appointed a new Marine Patrol Chief.  Prior to his promotion, Nick Mellas was Assistant Chief.  He has served on the Marine Patrol since 2009 and replaces the CLA’s recently retired Marine Patrol Chief, Ron Barnard.  Captain Henry Dyson has been promoted to Assistant Chief.  CLA official says both have long been a part of the Marine Patrol, and have worked tirelessly to keep boaters on Candlewood safe. The group added that their experience, professionalism, and expertise will be critical as the CLA addresses changing recreational challenges on an increasingly popular and busy Candlewood Lake.  The pair will be responsible for enforcing boating law, educating boaters or providing aid on the water, among other initiatives.

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Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company prepares for storm

With the projected large snow fall, Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company took steps this weekend to prepare for the storm.  They chained fire apparatus, checked fuel levels, ran power equipment and loaded up the snow blower. The Polaris Ranger UTV is ready to go as is the department's 4x4 Utility vehicles.

Brookfield has increased EMS staffing to assure that two full Paramedic Ambulances will be on duty until at least 6pm on Tuesday to get through the storm. The Fire Department will be dispatched to all EMS calls responding along with the Police Department and Public Works to assure adequate personnel to assist in patient care and removal.

The Pocono Road Headquarters is currently staffed with volunteer firefighters.  They ask residents and property owners that after the storm stops tomorrow to clear a 3-foot radius around any fire hydrant that's nearby.

 

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Dog, vehicles rescued from Monroe barn fire

A two story barn with attached garages in Monroe was heavily damaged by fire Saturday night. A dog escaped uninjured and 9 of 10 vehicles were saved. One firefighter was transported to the hospital with injuries and later released. The cause was accidental in nature due to a heating source.  Monroe volunteer fire officials say the blaze was stubborn to extinguish. Crews operated on scene for about 5 hours and then had several hours of clean up as much hose and equipment became frozen.

 

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Bethel-Redding COVID-19 vaccine clinic up and running

The Bethel-Redding COVID vaccine clinic began operations on Saturday.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says the clinic was well organized and smoothly run.  He thanked Bethel and Redding health officials, the Bethel Parks & Recreation department, Bethel Public Schools and the dozens of volunteers from CERT, school and town hall staff and the community at large. The clinic was limited to 100 doses, but is ready to scale up as supply increases.

 

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Box truck fire extinguished in Danbury

A box truck fire in Danbury on Friday was quickly extinguished, preventing the flames from reaching other vehicles parked nearby.  Police officers on patrol noticed black smoke in the area of Old Newtown Road and called firefighters to the scene.  Crews were able to quickly control the fire with no damage to the adjacent vehicle. The Danbury Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the cause of the fire.  No injuries were reported.

(Photo: DFD)

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Sherman residents approve funding for two new generators

Sherman residents have approved funding to purchase two new generators.  The $48,000 will be used to buy equipment for Mallory Town Hall and for the public works building.  Town Hall does not currently have a generator.  Funding for the generators would come from the town’s capital and non-recurring account and be reimbursed by a Connecticut LOCIP grant. 

 

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New Fairfield, Sherman vaccine clinic to start this week

The New Fairfield-Sherman COVID-19 Vaccination Clinic will receive 100 doses of vaccine this week.  New Fairfield First Selectman Pat Del Monaco says this is fewer doses than expected, and is only for individuals over the age of 75.  The clinic is listed on the VAMS portal.  The clinic will be located at the New Fairfield Senior Center.  Patients are asked to arrive 5 minutes before the scheduled appointment and call the clinic to tell the administrator that you have arrived. A Clinic staff member will call you back when they are ready for you to enter.  Please wear a mask, bring a photo ID with you and wear a short-sleeved shirt or loose fitting top to expedite the vaccination process.  

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Ridgefield COVID vaccine clinic Tuesday postponed

Due to expected inclement weather, the Covid-19 vaccination clinic at Yanity Gym in Ridgefield will be canceled tomorrow.  The clinic will be rescheduled and those with confirmed appointments will be moved automatically to the upcoming make-up date tentatively on Wednesday, depending on the weather, at the same time as their original appointments. If the clinic must be postponed again, those with confirmed appointments on Tuesday will again be re-scheduled. 

 

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Brookfield vaccine clinics to be held through March

Brookfield First Selectman Steve Dunn says the Health Department has held two successful vaccination clinics at Brookfield Senior Center over the last two weeks. He thanked the volunteer nurses, doctors, and administrators who made this effort possible.  Dunn added that he is grateful Brookfield is able to offer these clinics locally for senior and disabled residents.  The town will continue holding clinics at Brookfield Senior Center every Thursday and Friday through March as long as it can get supplies of the vaccine.

 

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Puppy rescued from Newtown house fire

A pet had to be rescued from a Newtown home on Friday when firefighters arrived to extinguish a fire.  Firefighters responded to Hanover Road and found flames in the walls of the house.  All residents evacuated as emergency responders arrived, despite initial reports that one person was refusing to leave.  Multiple dogs and cats were able to get out on their own. One puppy was rescued from the house by a Hook & Ladder firefighter.  No injuries were reported.  Fire officials say bitter cold temperatures and a light snow challenged Friday morning's work. Whiteout conditions happened a few times, with white-gray smoke covering the property and surrounding area.

 

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Police: Cold weather may have lead to street sweeper's death

SOUTHBURY, Conn. (AP) —Friday’s frigid weather may have contributed to the death of a street sweeper whose body was found after an early morning accident in Southbury.  The 47-year-old man’s body was discovered at about 5:30am by police responding to a report that a small sweeper vehicle had crashed into the side of a building at the Southbury Green shopping center.  Police say the man, whose name was not released, could have been unconscious for an extended time before he was found.  The initial investigation found the man might have been leaning out of the sweeper to pick up trash and may have hit the gas pedal by accident. Police said it did not appear the driver suffered any significant physical injuries in the crash, and he may have succumbed to the cold. Temperatures at the time were hovering around zero degrees.

 

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Zebra mussels populating Candlewood, not yet colonizing

Candlewood Lake Authority announced on Friday that 36 zebra mussels have been found along the exposed shoreline.  The organization has come up with a long term response to deal with the invasive issue.  They will expand water chemistry testing to understand viability and impact of invasive species in Candlewood Lake.  The distribution of the mussels in the lake indicates that there are likely multiple sources for the mussels to have entered Candlewood. Whether that's boats, docks, or other means CLA says it's difficult to decipher.  While their presence shows they can survive in the lake, they are not yet forming large colonies.

 

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