Local Headlines

Local lawmaker calls for session on juvenile justice reform

Connecticut lawmakers will be in special session next week to decide on a request from the Governor to extend his pandemic-related emergency powers. Some legislators wanted the session expanded to also address juvenile crime. Newtown state Representative Mitch Bolinsky says proposals to reform juvenile justice laws include over a dozen specific statutory and policy changes.  They are centered on prevention, accountability, and rehabilitation.

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'Love Letters' to be performed as fundraiser for a new library in Brookfield

A fundraiser is being held by Brookfield Library Foundation to help replace the outdated and cramped facility. Broadway is coming to Brookfield with a three-performance production of “Love Letters,” the play of love and missed opportunities that was a Pulitzer Prize finalist.  Performances will take place October 1st, 2nd and 3rd.  Brookfield residents Gwen Arment and Steve Belida are Broadway actors and producers who offered to stage the play as a fundraiser for the Brookfield Library Foundation.  The performances, which will be staged at the Brookfield Theatre for the Arts next to the library, will include an opening night performance on Friday at 7:30pm.  The Saturday performance will start at 7:30pm. The Sunday matinee begins at 2pm. Tickets are available at Brookfieldtheatre.org.

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Amy Schumer to be awarded Pudd'nhead Prize for Outstanding Humor in Redding

The Mark Twain Library in Redding will honor comedian and actress Amy Schumer at its eighth annual Pudd’nhead Prize for Outstanding Humor.  The award was created in 2014 by comedian and Redding resident Michael Ian Black, inspired by one of Twain’s stories, “The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson.”  The festival is a fundraiser for the library’s budget, as the Town of Redding only funds about 60-percent of the library's operating budget.  The show will be held tonight, though it already sold out.  Starting on October 2nd anyone will be able to stream the show on the library’s website for a minimum $25 donation. 

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State Police find dog missing since family's car stolen from service plaza

It took a few months, but Connecticut State Police Detectives were able to locate a family dog that went missing in February, when the family's vehicle was stolen from the northbound Fairfield Service Plaza on Interstate 95 following a major snowstorm.  The car was recovered a short time later, but Cindy was missing. Detectives from the State Police Western District Major Crime Squad assumed the investigation and on Wdnesday conducted surveillance operations in Waterbury.  They recovered the dog without incident. Cindy was transported to a local animal hospital for evaluation and remains in the custody of State Police and Waterbury Animal Control until she can be reunited with her family.  Arrests are pending.

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Local official gives targets for lifting mask mandate in Greater Danbury

Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker has been fielding a number of questions about when the town's indoor mask mandate will be lifted.  He says local health officials and the area town leaders are looking to the rate of new infections to fall below 10 per 100,000 population, and the positivity rate to drop below 2-percent. 

Knickerbocker says the numbers seem to have stabilized and he is hopeful cases will drop over the next few weeks.  Danbury, Bethel, Brookfield, Redding and Ridgefield issued the mandate on August 16th.  Newtown followed suit shortly after. 

The order in Newtown is in effect through October 6th, when the Legislative Council next meets.  But First Selectman Dan Rosenthal noted that the mandate could be lifted sooner if COVID-19 cases declined.  Newtown was in the state's Red Zone for COVID-19 community spread when the mandate was put in place, but is now in the Yellow Zone.  Red is for towns with 15 or more cases per 100,000 population.  Newtown now has 7.7 cases per 100,000. 

According to the latest COVID-19 data from the state Department of Public Health, Bethel's COVID-19 infection rate has remained virtually flat from last reporting period at 3.3-percent, with 10.1 cases per 100,000 population.  Brookfield is at 4.7 percent infection rate, up from 4 percent the week before. 

Danbury's COVID-19 test positivity rate has dropped again from the last reporting period to 3.3-percent from 4-percent.  115 cases have been reported to the state between September 5th and 18th.  That's 9.7 cases per 100,000 population. 

New Fairfield's COVID-19 infection rate over the last two weeks reported has declined significantly from 6.8 percent to 3.9 percent.  New Fairfield is hosting COVID-19 vaccine clinics twice a week throughout the month of September. 

New Milford's rate also dipped from the previous week to 2.4 percent while Newtown's rate held steady at 3.1 percent.  Redding's COVID-19 infection rate has climbed a bit over the last two weeks reported to 3.7-percent.  Ridgefield's rate declined from 3-percent to 2.6. 

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Mahoac Falls firefighters, Sheriff Deputies do dive team drill with EMS

Members of the Putnam County Sheriff's Department and Mahoac Falls firefighters recently took part in a dive team drill.  Members ran basic patterns in the shallow waters of Lake Mahopac. They also simulated diver-related emergency medical symptoms so EMS crews could practice their diver assessments and proper care.  The goals of the drill were to train for worst case scenarios and evaluate the areas in need of improvement.

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Kent to update Plan of Conservation and Development

Kent officials are looking to update the town's Plan of Conservation and Development.  A survey has been opened for residents to weigh in on the future of the town.  The online survey will be open through October 3rd for public input.  Copies of the survey area also available in the Town Hall lobby, library and Senior Center.

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Greater Danbury area towns moving through state COVID spread alert levels

81 municipalities are currently in the red zone, the highest of the state’s four alert levels for COVID-19 community spread, including Brookfield with 18.1 cases per 100,000.  New Fairfield moved down from Red to Orange joining Bethel and Redding in the 2nd highest level for community spread.  Newtown, Danbury and New Milford all have indoor mask rules, to some extent, and have dropped down to the yellow zone. 

Governor Ned Lamont noted that six or seven months ago Danbury was in bad shape, but now is in a better place.  Danbury has 9.7 cases per 100,000 population.  There were 115 cases in the last two weeks reported. 

Also yellow are Ridgefield, Southbury, and Wilton.  In the grey are Bridgewater, Sherman, Roxbury and Washington, the lowest alert level.

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DOL overpaid pandemic unemployment benefits, request repayment

The state Department of Labor is being called on to waive unemployment compensation overpayments that are being billed to workers.  Danbury Senator Julie Kushner says there were inadvertent errors, but they've learned a lot since the start of the pandemic.  She gave another example of PPP loans.  She called it a well intentioned program, but there was fraud and mistakes there too.  Kushner says there are many new ways people qualified for unemployment, and just many more who were eligible for compensation and the resources weren't set up to handle the volume.

Kushner says people receiving clawback letters can request a waiver, in addition to any other formal appeal process that is available. She noted that for instances of fraudulent claims of unemployment or identity theft, they have no mercy for those folks and backs Department of Labor’s efforts to recover those payments.

A DOL spokeswoman said overpayments not related to fraud stemmed from delays by employers who may have disputed a claim after benefits had already been paid. DOL says there are some cases where applicants made filing errors or the agency made a mistake.

Redding Representative Anne Hughes says some people had complex filings, for example people with two jobs, and many approvals took months before they saw a penny.  DOL is auditing the filings to determine if the lump sum was based on an accurate formula, and then if continued weekly payments were accurate or not.

House Speaker Matt says they may take up legislation requiring the state to cover the cost, which is estimated to be $6 million to $10 million.  Connecticut had 30,000 overpayment cases.  In the 18 months of this pandemic, DOL paid out $9.7 billion in state and federal unemployment benefits, compared to about $900 million in a typical 18-month period.

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DOT postpones Route 7 roadwork in New Milford

The state Department of Transportation has rescheduled roadwork on Route 7 that was supposed to take place this weekend.  The drainage repair work will now be done on Saturday, October 2nd.  Motorists can expect a road closure at Everwood Drive. Traffic control personnel and signing patterns will be used to guide motorists around the work zone.  The detour will take motorists to Route 37, 39N, 55, and back to Route 7. The schedule for this project is set to begin at 6am on the 2nd until completion the next day.

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Stand Down event today for veterans, National Guard, active duty military members

The state Department of Veterans Affairs annual Veterans Stand Down event wraps up today. The outreach initiative has been held for nearly three decades.  This year combined two days of online benefits presentations and a day with five regional in-person Veteran resource access sites, including Danbury. Informational sessions covered a variety of topics including housing and homeless services, State labor/employment and vocational resources, caregiver support, legal assistance, education resources and others.  Five in–person service locations throughout the State, including at the Danbury War Memorial, will take place from 8am-2pm.  They will be staffed by representatives of the regional Vet Centers, CT Bar Association, the DVA and Veteran Service Organizations, along with community based providers. Veterans can get benefits information, pro-bono legal services and free COVID-19 testing, vaccines and flu shots.

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Sandy Hook denier's request to intervene in wrongful death case denied

A Sandy Hook denier's request to intervene in the wrongful death lawsuit brought by nine families against Remington has been rejected by a Connecticut judge.  The Wisconsin man, who in a separate case was ordered to pay the father of a victim for claiming the child’s death certificate was a fake, was trying to bolster his appeal in Wisconsin.  Attorneys for both the families and Remington objected to the intervention.  Superior Court Judge Barbara Bellis ruled that the interests alleged were insufficient to allow the man to be brought in as a party, and that he had no standing in her court.

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Ridgefield residents approve lease renewal for Henny Penny Farm

Ridgefield residents have signed off on a lease to operate Henny Penny Farm on town-owned land on Ridgebury Road.  A special Town Meeting was held Wednesday night.  Whitney Freeman was approved to have up to 85 sheep graze on the 16-acre farm, designated as conservation land, to aid in soil regeneration.  3 llamas are also allowed.  Some neighbors previously raised concerns to the Conservation Commission about the seemingly commercial nature of the farm and noise from tractors.   A new provision in the lease stipulates that Freeman contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture to suggest changes to her grazing practices if a species of special concern is subject to impact.

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Bethel having trouble getting certain items for school lunches from suppliers

The Bethel Public School District is having trouble getting certain items for school lunches from suppliers.  The district is short on some produce and chicken tenders, and can't get gluten free chicken tenders.  Food Services Director Amanda Riley says they are trying their best and thanked families for their patience.  Riley announced in a Facebook video menu changes yesterday for Bethel High School due to staff shortages; they're down four  people in the food services department.  Federal programs are allowing all students to get free breakfast and lunch for the entire school year.

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Regional Animal Control gives update on 19 animals rescued from Sherman fire

Regional Animal Control has given an update on the 19 animals found on a Sherman property where the home collapsed due to a fire.  The 18 dogs and 1 chicken were found living in very tough, outdoor chained and caged situations. Three cats perished in the fire. Though none of the animals removed from the scene presented immediate, emergency life-threatening injuries or ailments, these animals will need a significant amount of veterinary care. This matter still currently stands as under investigation. Anyone looking to make contributions toward their care are asked to send donations to Animal Welfare Society, Inc. in New Milford, by calling 860-354-1350. A separate account has been set up by them specifically for their care.

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Southbury Police to resume fingerprinting next week

The Town of Southbury will resume fingerprinting next week.  Southbury Police thanked people for their patience as they worked with the State as Connecticut transitioned to a new system for fingerprinting. The instructions for the new system can be found on the Southbury Police Deparment website, as there have been some changes in the process.   Fingerprinting for employment, pistol permits, and other needs is performed for Southbury residents only, and is done at no cost. Fingerprints are taken on Wednesdays (7:30-9:10am and 3:30-5:10pm) and Saturdays (7:30-10:50am) by appointment only.

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NY State Police investigating home burglary in North Salem

New York State Police are attempting to identify suspects in a home burglary in North Salem.  Troopers are looking for two people who used a motorcycle to get away.  The white man and white woman were caught on surveillance photos, now posted to the New York State Police Facebook page.  Anyone with information about the identity or location of the subjects is asked to contact the Somers barracks at (914) 769-2600 and refer to case# 10330966.

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New Milford Police to host Bicycle Safety Rodeo for kids

New Milford Police are hosting a Bicycle Safety Rodeo for kids this weekend.  Chief Spencer Cerruto is inviting kids to bring their bikes on Saturday to Church Street where an officer will be teaching bicycle safety, rules of the road, and proper helmet usage.  Kids can then take part in a bicycle cone course next to Town Hall and the Mayor's Bicycle Parade.  The event at 2:15pm coincides with the New Milford Apple Festival and Bicycle Parade at 3pm.  No sign up is required.

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WestConn receives donation of letters written as correspondence during Civil War

WestConn has received a donation of about 130 letters written as correspondence during the American Civil War. Alumna Carol Lieto donated the letters, penned by her great-great-grandfather Joseph Dobbs Bishop. Bishop was a Danbury soldier during the Civil War, serving as the chief musician in the 23rd Connecticut Volunteer Infantry. Alongside Bishop’s letters, the collection includes his enlistment papers, music book, schedules and photographs. West Conn Archivist and Special Collections Librarian Brian Stevens will co-teach a class with Professor of Writing Dr. Edward Hagan, studying the wartime letters of notable Danbury residents. Only a few of the records have currently been digitized. Stevens hoped for the entire collection to be available online by the end of next semester.  The Bishop collection is primarily available for in-person viewing at the archives, located in the basement of the Haas Library on WCSU’s Midtown campus. To make an appointment, there is an online form on the archives’ website.

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Easton Police install new permanent Medication Disposal Box

Easton Police have installed a new Medication Disposal Box in the lobby of the police department on Morehouse Road.  They're now a permanent drug take back site, open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Easton Police say the best way to dispose of most types of old, unwanted, or expired medicines--both prescription and over the counter--is to drop the medicine off at a drug take back site.  The collected medications are permanently disposed of by incineration at an EPA approved location.  Easton Police will continue to participate in the Drug Enforcement Administration's National Drug Take Back Day, coming up October 23 from 10am to 2pm.  That collection will take place at Samuel Staples Elementary School.  Chief Richard Doyle says it's important to raise awareness about the serious dangers of keeping unused medications in the home, especially when it comes to opioid pain medications falling into the wrong hands.

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Conservative Caucus holds hearing on upcoming vaccine mandate

Teachers, school bus drivers, and health care workers were among the dozens of people who testified before a group of state legislators Wednesday, arguing they unfairly face the possibility of losing their jobs because state and federal mandates require them to get vaccinated or tested regularly for COVID-19.

Some said they’re willing to risk their jobs rather than get the shot.

“I may lose my job next week, but my choice and every parent’s choice for what we put in our bodies is more important than my job,” said Linda Machorro, a veteran elementary school teacher in the Danbury Public Schools.

Some people who appeared before the General Assembly’s Conservative Caucus, which organized the hearing, said they’ve been shunned at work and experienced discrimination because of their resistance to getting the shot.

Some questioned why vaccinated workers weren’t also required to get tested regularly while others complained about having to answer invasive questions about their medical histories and religious beliefs in order to obtain an exemption.

Ashley Madore, one of several school bus drivers in Bristol who attended the hearing, said people who kept working during the pandemic are now scoffed at by politicians and others because of their personal concerns about the vaccine and their reluctance to get tested weekly.

“Those of us who were once heroes are now nothing because we believe in the right to choice,” she said.

An executive order signed by the governor requires staff at childcare facilities and pre-K-12 schools statewide to have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Sept. 27. Those who don’t get vaccinated due to certain exemptions will have to get tested weekly. State hospital and long-term care employees will not have the option of testing in lieu of vaccination.

“Every action Gov. Lamont has taken in response to the pandemic has been aimed at reducing the spread of the virus,” said Max Reiss, a spokesperson for Lamont.

Last month, President Joe Biden ordered all employers with more than 100 workers to require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly. Also, he required workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid to be fully vaccinated.

Wednesday’s hearing at the Legislative Office Building marked the first such in-person public event since last year. Most members of the Conservative Caucus, people who testified and many who sat inside the hearing room did not wear face masks. The executive director of the Office of Legislative Management issued a rule on Aug. 2 requiring vaccinated and unvaccinated people entering the complex to wear face coverings when in common areas.

House Speaker Matt Ritter, D-Hartford, accused the legislators of “putting Capitol Police, members of the public, staff and elected officials at risk” and urged House Republican leaders to “take action against these elected officials who blatantly and purposefully broke our building’s public health policy.”

House Minority Leader Vincent Candelora, R-North Branford, called Ritter’s statement “hyperbolic” and “inaccurate given the guidance legislators received from Capitol Police” on Wednesday.

“This manufactured controversy is the latest evidence of his party’s desire to conduct as much business as possible outside the public eye,” he said in a statement. “Make no mistake, Democrats want to keep the Capitol closed and continue the charade that virtual government is serving residents well.”

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WCSU reports few COVID-19 cases among unvaccinated students, staff

94 percent of residential students at WestConn are vaccinated against COVID-19.  82-percent of commuter students are vaccinated and 83-percent of faculty and staff are vaccinated. 

During the week of September 13th, 130 tests were done on students, faculty, and staff who are not vaccinated or have not provided their vaccination status.  No positive cases were reported.  The break down was tests for 34 students living on campus, 72 commuters and 24 faculty members.  Testing is done weekly. 

There's also self-reporting of students, faculty, and staff who received testing conducted off campus.  One residential student, one commuter student and one faculty member reported positive tests.

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Jericho Partnership in need of food pantry donations

Jericho Partnership is in need of donations for its food pantry.  Donations can be dropped off at their location at 22 Maple Avenue, with the best days Wednesday and Thursdays.  Jericho Partnership says their pantry is completely out of certain items, including pasta and sauce, rice, cereal and canned green beans, carrots and corn.  Their pantry is running low on peanut butter and jelly, beans, soup and Tuna/Spam.  The organization also has diapers available for parents in need, but are out of size 4 and 5 diapers.  Jericho Partnership is still serving nearly 100 families in need every week.

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State Police seek hit & run driver in Newtown

State Police are looking for a hit and run driver who caused damage to a car on I-84 in Newtown.  State Police responded to an accident Monday afternoon near westbound exit 9 and determined that one vehicle slowed for traffic, and a Massachusetts man behind him failed to stop in time.  No injuries were reported, but the Lexus fled the scene.  State Police were able to identify the other driver, but the investigation remains ongoing.

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Local lawmaker proposes update to free meals program for students

A local lawmaker has introduced a bill to make several improvements to direct certification for free meals without the need for household applications.  The School Modernization and Efficient Access to Lunches for Students Act, also known as the School MEALS Act, was proposed by 5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes. She says food insecurity among children is morally reprehensible and must be addressed.  She wants to prevent hunger from reaching the astronomical levels seen during the height of the pandemic when many parents were out of work. Although Congress responded by strengthening nutrition programs, Hayes says 1 in 5 Connecticut children still experienced food insecurity.  Hayes, a former teacher, says she's seen the impact of hunger on student learning and wants children to have the confidence of knowing where their next meal is coming from.  In 2020, Hayes says child hunger climbed by six percent in Connecticut.

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