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Local Headlines Archives for 2022-01

New Fairfield Board of Ed discusses combining Consolidated, Meeting House Hill

The New Fairfield Board of Education has started a discussion about combining Consolidated School and Meeting House Hill School into a single facility on an elementary campus. No decisions have been made and no votes by the Board of Education have been taken.  Superintendent Dr. Pat Cosentino says a new configuration, a PreK-Grade 5 school, has positive benefits as well as some challenges.   In the near future, administrators plan to have community conversations to get resident's input as New Fairfield moves forward with the opening of Consolidated Elementary School Academy.  Cosentino says there should be a smooth transition to the new space in late August 2022 for the new home of PreK to Grade 2 students and staff.

Bethel Police warn of Grandparent Scam circulating in the region

The Bethel Police Department and surrounding law enforcement agencies have had an increase in reports of senior residents being scammed over the phone.  Bethel Police say the most recent scam hitting the senior community involves criminal suspects calling victims and claiming that they are a grandchild or family member in need of bail money. The suspects go through extensive lengths to appear legitimate, often times creating false records and using a second accomplice to pose as a police officer or bail commissioner. Senior residents who receive such a call are asked to contact Bethel Police immediately and to not provide any money to the caller.  Bethel Police can verify the status of family members.

Local lawmaker wants to vote on executive orders individually

A local lawmaker is calling on his colleagues to take their power back.  Newtown state Senator Tony Hwang says it's their responsibility as legislators to be the voice of their constituents and to operate as a co-equal branch of government.  He wants the Governor's 11 remaining Executive Orders to come to a vote, independently and not as a full package, because each addresses very specific matters. Hwang says some may not have compelling reasons to be extended while for others, the need may be imperative. Before any Executive Orders are codified in state law, Hwang says the public deserves the opportunity to be heard and called for a public hearing.

Brookfield VFD responds to emergencies during snow storm

Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company responded to several emergencies over the weekend.  On Saturday morning, a private snow plow contractor hit a utility pole on Hillendale Road.  The driver refused EMS treatment.  Firefighters addressed an oil spill at the scene.  Saturday afternoon, Brookfield Fire and EMS were sent to a condo complex for a medical emergency. With the assistance of a plow truck from Brookfield Public Works, they accessed the unit at the end of the complex.  Firefighters shoveled the walk way while EMS evaluated the patient.

Redding PTA seeks help preparing for STEAM Fair

Redding residents are being called on to help the Redding Elementary School PTA get ready for the STEAM Fair in April.  The STEAM, science, technology, engineering, art and math, team will be recycling paper towel and toilet power rolls for a binocular making project. The rolls can be dropped off at Redding Town Hall during open hours.  The STEAM Fair is April 23rd, and has a theme supporting nature and Earth Day.  

BroadwayWorld 2021 Connecticut Awards presented to West Conn

BroadwayWorld 2021 Connecticut Awards have been presented to West Conn faculty and students for productions at the Visual and Performing Arts Center during the 2020 academic year.  That included Best Streaming Musical, Best Direction of a Stream and Best Performers of a Stream. The BroadwayWorld Regional Awards are the largest theatre audience-voted awards, with over 100 cities worldwide participating. West Conn Department of Theatre Arts productions in 2020 were live-streamed to the public due to the pandemic.

Two men shot in Danbury over the weekend

Two men were shot in Danbury over the weekend.  Danbury Police, Fire and EMS  responded to the area of Rose Hill Avenue and Ann Drive on Saturday, shortly before 9pm.  They found two men, each suffering from gunshot wounds. The victims were taken to Danbury Hospital for treatment. A male victim, who is in his sixties, is in critical condition while the other male, who is in his thirties, is in fair condition.  No suspects or motives in the case have been identified and the investigation is ongoing.  Anyone with information is asked to call the confidential tips line at (203) 790-TIPS.

Danbury considering future of homeless services

The future of homeless services in Danbury remains in the balance with Governor Lamont's pandemic powers set to expire February 15th.  They could be extended another 30 to 60 days as the General Assembly reconvenes and decides whether or not to codify 11 remaining executive orders into law.  One part of the pandemic response was to provide funding so that homeless shelters and congregate settings could operate with room for distancing. 

When the pandemic hit, Danbury's shelter and several others operated by nonprofits, closed and the homeless population was housed at the former Super 8 motel.  Since then, the Stamford-based nonprofit Pacific House took over operations from the City and bought the building, using $4.63 million in federal money. 

But that was before Land Use agencies weighed in and ultimately rejected a shelter at 3 Lake Avenue Ext.  Pacific House has appealed the Zoning Commission’s decision, forcing the City to defend the rejection despite Danbury leaders supporting the proposal. 

The nonprofit's attorney said in the appear that the city “has no legal, open shelter for homeless individuals, and no plan for any such facility.”  Mayor Dean Esposito says he and Health Director Kara Prunty had a productive meeting Wednesday with the state Housing Commissioner. 

Danbury is forming a task force to determine how to move forward.

As of January 25th, there were 65 people staying at the shelter. 

Danbury opens warming centers through Wednesday

Danbury has warming centers open for the next several days as the extreme frigid weather holds on.  The Governor's Cold Weather Protocol remains in effect until Wednesday.  In Danbury, the Shelter at New Street is open today through Wednesday 8am to 6pm.  Anyone needing to get out of the cold can also use the warming center at the War Memorial 5am to 10pm through Wednesday.  Danbury Library is also a designated warming center, open during normal operating hours of 10am to 8pm.

Local lawmakers weigh in on Danbury FCI visit

A couple of local lawmakers joined Connecticut's two U.S. Senators last week when they tried to view the COVID-19 situation at Danbury Federal Correctional Institution.  State Senator Julie Kushner and Representative Patrick Callahan's districts include the prison.  The Bureau of Prisons said for health and safety reasons, portions of the tour were adjusted by the Warden to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 following an increase in COVID-19 cases. 

The delegation says they were looking into complaints of an outbreak and staffing challenges among other issues.  The Danbury prison complex houses 1,078 inmates, with about 40% of the inmates in isolation or quarantine because of coronavirus.

Corrections officers say a staffing shortage is requiring many correctional officers to work double shifts.  While the bureau’s goal is one officer per prison unit, the Danbury staff to unit ratio is 1 to 3. Some 13 officers are out of work because of COVID-19.  Union officials say officers are exhausted, morale is low and conditions are dangerous.

Kushner says while everyone thought COVID would only be an issue for two weeks or two months, it's now been two years and if the BOP is not planning for a future with COVID, they're making a big mistake.  She noted that while there is currently an emergency sitution, they also need to have long term planning.

Danbury making at home COVID test kits available to residents

The City of Danbury is making at home test kits available to residents.  The Department of Health & Human Services says testing can help in preventing the spread of COVID-19. To request an at-home testing kit, residents can call 203-797-4625 or 203-744-4311.

According to the latest COVID-19 data from the state Department of Public Health, Danbury reported 1,442 cases in the last two weeks.  Danbury's case rate, per 100,000 population, is 121.6 cases.  Danbury had an infection rate of 27.1 percent as of January 22nd.

100 percent of the Danbury population 65 and older is fully vaccinated.  26.3 percent of 5 to 11 year olds, 76.86 percent of 12 to 17 year olds, 63.32 percent of 18 to 24 year olds, 77.25 percent of 25 to 44 year olds, and 87.4 percent of 45 to 64 year olds are fully vaccinated.

Brookfield, Ridgefield name new Land Use Directors

Brookfield’s former land use director has started a new job as Ridgefield’s planning and zoning director.  Alice Dew replaces Richard Baldelli who retired on January 3rd. Brookfield is replacing her with Richelle Hodza, of Warren.  Hodza served as land use officer for Warren and has a background as a legal secretary, land use administrator, and as a zoning and wetlands enforcement officer for several towns.  Dew served as Brookfield’s land use director from 2015 to 2021, serving an integral role in the town center district--Four Corners redevelopment.  She also served as Brookfield’s zoning enforcement officer for five years and on the town’s Conservation Commission for 20 years.  Ridgefield Town Planner Karen Martin has also left to accept a job with SLR Consulting.

Putnam County COVID-19 vaccine clinics, testing sites reducing operations

With the number of Omicron cases dropping and demand for COVID vaccines and tests decreasing, Putnam County’s vaccine clinics and testing sites will reduce operations.  Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell says both can be restarted on short notice, if necessary. The COVID-19 test site in Carmel will be open on Mondays and Fridays from 10am to 5pm.  That's located at the Paladin Center.  Appointments are required. 

The Putnam County Department of Health has scheduled its last vaccine clinic for Tuesday, February 8th. 

Odell is touting the work of the Health Department, noting that it's a small one, but never gave up.  The Department has administered 25,392 vaccines since January of 2021.    At the height of the Omicron surge, Putnam County administered 600 to 700 COVID tests per day.  Last week, only 154 tests were given. 

Fire companies call for residents to dig out fire hydrants on their property

Greater Danbury area fire departments are calling on residents to help them out after the storm.  If there is a fire hydrant located on your property, the volunteer fire companies asked that residents dig out a 3-foot radius around the hydrant.  Homeowners and businesses are also required in many municipalities to clear the sidewalk along their property.

Some Newtown students to attend other schools during HVAC project work

The Newtown Board of Education is looking into plans to accommodate students while the 100-year-old Hawley Elementary School is closed for an HVAC project.  300 students would attend classes in two other schools next academic year.  Kindergarten and first graders would attend Sandy Hook Elementary, while 2nd through 4th graders would go to Reed Intermediate School.  Reed normally hosts 5th and 6th graders.  Residents in November approved an upgrade to Hawley's ventilation, air-conditioning and electrical system.  Construction will begin at the end of this school year and is expected to be complete by April 2023.

Vehicle stolen in Washington recovered hours later

A vehicle reported stolen in the Town of Washington Thursday night was quickly recovered by State Police.  Troopers were called shortly after 5pm about a vehicle taken from “The Pantry” restaurant, registered to the business. About two hours later, the suspect, 52-year old Philip Beach, and the vehicle were located at his Washington home.  He was found in possession of drug paraphernalia and illegal substances. The vehicle was returned to its owner.  Beach was charged with larceny, possession of a controlled substance and use of drug paraphernalia. 

Danbury declares Level 3 Snow Emergency

A level 3 snow emergency will in effect for the City of Danbury as of 8pm.  This means that parking is prohibited on city streets. To avoid having vehicles ticketed and towed, Mayor Dean Esposito asked residents to take immediate action and move to off-street parking by 10pm. The Patriot Parking Garage will be open free of charge starting at 7:30pm to accommodate those who need space to comply with this weather emergency.  Level 3 also means that Travel on city streets is restricted to emergency vehicles, public works, four-wheel drive, and emergency personnel only.  This storm will bring with it heavy winds resulting in potential power outages and downed trees. Residents are asked to secure all outdoor items or bring them inside.

COVID testing Saturday cancelled in several locations

Tomorrow's COVID 19 testing clinic in New Milford has been canceled due to the winter  storm.  Residents with appointments are asked to bring confirmed registration to the testing day next week.  The Kent COVID-19 Test Site has also suspended operations for tomorrow due to weather for the safety of both the site team personnel and the public.  The Carmel Testing Site will be closed all day on Saturday.

DPH releases Greater Danbury area COVID-19 data

According to the latest COVID-19 data from the state Department of Public Health, Danbury reported 1,442 cases in the last two weeks.  Bethel has had 293 cases, there were 274 COVID cases in Brookfield, and New Fairfield reported 181.  There were 454 COVID cases in New Milford, 367 in Newtown, Redding reported 74 cases in the last two weeks while Ridgefield had 279. 

The state department of Public Health is reporting COVID-19 case rates for the Greater Danbury area were cut in half for the week ending January 22nd.  Case rates range from 58 to 121 per 100-thousnd population, down from a range of 104 to 206 last week. The lowest case rate is in Redding and the highest is in Danbury, based on population.    

The rates are:

Redding 58

Ridgefield 79.8

New Fairfield 93.2

Newtown 94

Bethel 105.7

Brookfield 115.3

New Milford 121

Danbury 121.6

 

COVID-19 infection rates for the Greater Danbury area range from 13 to 27 percent, down from a range of 20 to 35 percent last week.  The lowest test positivity is in Redding and the highest is in Danbury.  At home COVID-19 test results are not reported to the state. 

The rates are:

Redding 13.4 percent

Ridgefield 14.8 percent

Newtown 18.1 percent

New Milford 20.3 percent 

Bethel 20.5 percent

Brookfield 22.5 percent 

New Fairfield 24.7 percent 

Danbury 27.1 percent 

Redding to make masks available to residents

N95 masks are available at various locations around Redding such as Town Hall, Mark Twain Library, Transfer Station, Park & Rec, Heritage Center, and houses of worship.  For residents looking to pick up masks from town hall, they are asked to call 203-938-2559 from the front door.  Redding Health Officer Doug Hartline says these high quality masks are designed to form a seal around an adult's nose and mouth, but are not designed for people with facial hair because a proper fit cannot be achieved to provide protection.

Danbury won't need to rent former Brookfield school next academic year

Danbury does not plan to rent a former Brookfield catholic school next academic year.  Superintendent Kevin Walston told the Board of Ed this week that the Ellsworth Avenue Elementary School annex is expected to open on time.  The Danbury Primary Center at the former St. Joseph Catholic Academy will close.  It was used this year for 240 students in 11 classes due to pandemic-related distancing guidelines.  If Danbury were to run the program there for additional years, more investments would be needed such as an additional boiler and more air conditioning.

New Fairfield Police remind parents of school drop-off procedures

The New Fairfield Resident Trooper's Office has seen some issues with school drop off.  Parents who are driving their kids to the middle and high school especially are being reminded that the school buses are the priority.  Parents should enter the campus and move into the left lane.  Only buses and students that are parking in the lower lots, may use the right lane.  New Fairfield Troopers also asked that parents not block buses as they enter the middle school driveway for drop off or pick up.

Bethel schools to hold budget workshops

The Bethel School District is hosting budget workshops on Tuesdays and Thursdays through February 8th.  Superintendent Christine Carver is requesting a 3.95 percent spending increase, or an additional $1.9 million, for coming academic year.  She says more funding is needed due to increasing enrollment and to address pandemic-related issues.  Among the other factors contributing to the increase are the cost of diesel fuel and supplies for the school lunch program. A special education teacher at Berry Elementary School, but Carver says caseloads remain a challenge at Rockwell Elementary and an  additional special education teacher is needed there.

Danbury Zoners clear path for Danbury Career Academy with site plan revision approval

Site plan changes have been approved for a development in Danbury, clearing a hurdle for creation of the Danbury Career Academy.  The Danbury Zoning Commission signed off on revisions to The Summit's application to reduce the number of apartments in the former Matrix Center to a minimum of 180.  A City-run public school, serving 1,400 middle and high school students, could be located in three of the pods. 

The Zoners did include a provision that if plans for the school fall through. SC Ridge can revert back to the previously approved 404 residential units. 

The approval followed a site visit by some members of the Commission.  The pods on the right side of the building are to be office space and the pods on the left side are where the residential units and the Career Academy will be located. All visitors to the site will enter through the north side of the building and exit through the south side.

The school area will not have access to the residential unit amenities including a health club, a dry cleaner, a barber, a beauty salon, a yoga studio, and kitchen facilities operated by the Market Place restaurant.  Market Place will be opening a restaurant and coffee bar in an area by the main lobby.  A convenience store will also be in that area.  Access to the residential units will be by card-access only.  

Other plans for the site include a Danbury Police substation and space dedicated to emergency response services.  Developers hope to have an ambulance located on the premises during the daytime hours.

The Nuvance offices at the site are already in use.  There's an existing ballroom and executive boardrooms at the Matrix Center.  In addition to existing walking paths, plans call for a putting area for golfers, and bocce courts. 

Danbury COVID-19 cases reported to state on the decline

Danbury has reported 1,442 COVID-19 cases to the state Department of Public Health in the last two weeks reported.  The case rate as of January 22nd is 121.6 down from 206.6 per 100,000  population last week.  Danbury has a test positivity rate of 27 percent, down from 34.9 percent last week.  All but one of Connecticut's municipalities remain in the red zone alert level for COVID-19 community spread.  Just Canaan again is not showing 15 or more cases per 100,000 population over the last two weeks.  That town is in the grey with fewer than 5 cases.  

Mahopac man sentenced for drug sale, possession of weapon

A Mahopac man has been sentenced to 7 years in prison after pleading guilty to Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance and Criminal Possession of a Firearm.  27-year-old Kyle Novotny also pleaded guilty to criminal possession of a weapon and a controlled substance.  All four are felonies. 

District Attorney Robert Tendy says Novotny drove to a location in Somers in August 2020 and sold heroin to a person working for the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Enforcement Unit.  He was taken into custody at his home that November.  While there, Deputies recovered an unregistered and loaded Glock 44 handgun. 

Novotny pleaded guilty last month and was sentenced Wednesday.  

Bethel residents approve funding to expand Clarke Business Park

Bethel residents have signed off on funding to expand Clarke Business Park.  During a special town meeting Tuesday, residents approved appropriating up to $872,633 from the General Fund for the balance of funding for the construction project.   This money would supplement a state Department of Economic and Community Development grant of $635,017.  Plans call for adding four commercial lots, totaling 13.2 acres, along with water and sewer.  The project is a long time coming.  Bethel has tried for decades to expand, but one big hurdle was a lack of water for business needs and fire suppression.  When the Eureka Lake water storage tank project was completed in 2016, Bethel sought state funding, which was approved last year.

New Fairfield reminding residents of street parking ban in winter

With a possible big snow storm coming this weekend, the New Fairfield Resident Trooper's Office is offering a reminder to residents.  There is a town ordinance on winter street parking because some of the roads are very narrow.  There is no parking allowed on town roads while New Fairfield plows are out removing snow, sanding or responding to other weather  related emergencies to help the town plows and sanders do their job.  Violations will result in a 25 dollar fine and will be double if not paid within 15 days.  Vehicles may also be towed at the owner's expense.

Brookfield Fire & EMS ready for winter storm

Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company is tracking the potential substantial snow storm.  Fire Chief Ellis and EMS Deputy Chief Woodtke participated on a Zoom call with Candlewood Company, Brookfield Police, Public Works, Parks & Recreation and First Selectman Tara Carr to coordinate the preparation.  Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company will be increasing EMS staffing to cover 2 ambulances on the over night tonight increasing to 3 ambulances and a paramedic fly car on Saturday morning.  Pocono Road Headquarters will be staffed by volunteer firefighters and EMT’s starting tonight.  An ATV and other vehicles will be readied to respond to calls.   Residents are reminded to not park on the street during a snow storm as it hampers snow removal and could delay emergency responses. 

Local lawmaker to host virtual Red Cross Emergency Preparedness training class

Members of the Newtown state legislative delegation are co-hosting a virtual Red Cross Emergency Preparedness training class on Tuesday.  State Representatives Mitch Bolinsky and Tony Scott, along with the American Red Cross, will detail easy-to-do steps in advance of an emergency to ensure residents can withstand a crisis safely with minimal discomfort.  The lawmakers say Newtown has had its share of natural disasters in recent years, including Tropical Storm Irene, the 2018 tornado-like windstorm that cut a path of destruction along the north side of town and Tropical Storm Isaias.  In each case, thousands were left without power and individual and town losses were in the millions of dollars.  Tuesday's training will be at 6:30pm via Zoom.  The 'Be Red Cross Ready' training is a national, standardized preparedness education program for adults taught by a certified Red Cross presenter. The curriculum is designed to help people understand, prepare for, and respond appropriately to year-round disasters like home fires and local hazards like hurricanes.

WCSU to administer rapid COVID-19 tests this week after scheduling issue with lab

Quest Diagnostics, the company which will support West Conn with PCR COVID-19 testing, was unable to go to campus yesterday afternoon as planned.  All members of the West Conn community who are required to test were asked to visit the Midtown Student Center’s Colonial Corner today or tomorrow between 1pm and 3pm for a rapid antigen test. 

Students and staff who have been granted vaccine exemptions are required to test each week, and submit those results to the university. 

During the semester, residential students in apartment-style halls who test positive or are symptomatic will isolate in their rooms with their roommates. Students living in Litchfield or Newbury Halls will isolate in Fairfield Hall.  Any student able to return home to recover is encouraged to follow that course.  Indoor social distancing and masks will be required for the foreseeable future and no spectators will be allowed at WCSU athletic events.

Troopers investigate car break-in, larceny in New Fairfield

The New Fairfield Resident Trooper's Office is investigating a vehicle break in that happened  in the area of Biscotti's Ristorante.  The larceny incident occurred on the 12th, sometime in the afternoon hours.  Cash and credit cards were removed from the vehicle by the suspect. The credit cards were used by the suspect at several locations throughout Danbury. The male suspect was seen getting into dark gray Nissan Rogue or Murano with an unknown license plate. Anyone with information is asked to contact New Fairfield Troopers.

Southbury Police investigating larceny at beauty store

Southbury Police are investigating a larceny at Ulta Beauty in the Southbury Plaza.  A man and woman entered the store shortly before 5:30pm last Sunday and put  bottled fragrance items in their pockets, and left without paying.  The male suspect is described as having  dark hair and wearing a black jacket and black pants.  The only description of the female suspect was that she was wearing a blue jacket and black pants. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Southbury Police.

Bethel School District providing budget data for upcoming academic year

The Bethel Public Schools district is keeping their Financial Dashboard up to date with all 2022-2023 budget information.  This includes presentations, links to digital Board of Education meetings and other relevant documentation.  There's also a separate PowerPoint detailing the use of Federal grant monies to support keeping schools open and supporting student needs during the ongoing pandemic.  The Dashboard also has historical information and all relevant financial information for the district.

Weekend COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Redding cancelled

Due to the impending weather,  the COVID-19 vaccine clinic scheduled for this Saturday in Redding has been cancelled.   There are some other vaccine clinics planned in the region for this weekend.  Griffin Health has not yet said if the mobile vans will be at those locations.  They do say that the walk up clinics are weather dependent.  One of their weekend clinics is held at Danbury High School every Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm.

Senators say they were denied full access to federal prison

Two U.S. senators said Wednesday that they were denied access to parts of a federal prison in Connecticut while trying to examine conditions there in response to correctional officers’ complaints about a staffing shortage and lack of coronavirus precautions.

Concerns about the spread of COVID-19 itself were behind the denial, the federal Bureau of Prisons said.

Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, both Connecticut Democrats, visited the Danbury Federal Correctional Institution with labor union leaders and two state lawmakers. Murphy said they were barred from seeing the main women’s facility but were able to see a men’s unit after a “fight” to gain access.

“There was clearly a decision made to try to stop both of us from seeing some of the conditions at this prison,” Murphy said during a news conference after the visit.

“This facility, even during COVID, should be open for inspection by policymakers,” he said. “We need to see it during good times, but we also need to see it during bad times. And if the Bureau of Prisons has decided that U.S. lawmakers are not going to be able to see what is really happening inside these prisons during a crisis, that’s a problem.”

Blumenthal said prison officials rejected, at the last moment Wednesday morning, an itinerary given to the senators ahead of the visit.

“The officials here said we’d love to have you come back when COVID is over,” Blumenthal said. “We came here to see conditions when COVID is the problem. That was the whole point.”

The Bureau of Prisons said in a statement that Murphy and Blumenthal were given a tour of the prison “based on current COVID-19 safety protocols.”

“For health and safety reasons, portions of the tour were adjusted by the Warden to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 following an increase in COVID-19 cases,” the statement said.

The bureau did not immediately respond to other questions about correctional officers’ concerns about staffing and coronavirus protocols. A bureau spokesperson said responses were being prepared.

The senators basically were kept away from any areas where inmates were, said Shaun Boylan, a Danbury prison staffer and executive vice president of the local prison staff union, Local 1661 of the American Federation of Government Employees. He said prison officials had no objections to the original tour itinerary until Wednesday morning.

The tour was changed to include mostly empty areas, including a dining room for men and secure areas just outside the housing units, Boylan said.

The Danbury prison complex houses 1,078 inmates, according to the bureau. Murphy and the local correctional officers’ union say about 40% of the inmates are in isolation or quarantine because of the coronavirus.

The virus has been spreading widely again in federal prisons across the country. The Bureau of Prisons says it oversees more than 145,000 inmates in institutions and community-based facilities.

Of the total inmates, 8,074 currently are currently infected with the coronavirus and more than 1,640 of the 36,000 staff members are infected, according to bureau data.

Boylan said a staffing shortage in Danbury is requiring many correctional officers to work double shifts. Officers are exhausted, morale is low and conditions are dangerous, he said.

Staffing problems also are resulting in officers working in several units, which may be helping to spread the virus, Boylan said. And it is taking too long — two days — to receive virus testing results for staff, he said.

“We don’t have the staff to stop the spread of coronavirus here because they’re using the shortened numbers of staff, and they’re going all over the place,” Boylan said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Boylan said there are just over 80 correctional officers at Danbury, compared with 115 two years ago and 72 officers short of meeting the Bureau of Prisons’ own staffing guidelines. While the bureau’s goal is one officer per prison unit, the Danbury staff to unit ratio is 1 to 3, he said. Thirteen officers are out of work because of the virus, he said.

The bureau has said Danbury is more than 90% staffed, but the union doesn’t agree with that number.

Blumenthal said he will be asking the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate staffing at Danbury and other federal prisons.

Murphy, Blumenthal and U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, also a Connecticut Democrat, earlier this month called for a federal investigation of the Danbury prison complex after saying they received reports of officials not following coronavirus protocols.

Bureau of Prisons officials have previously said they follow the COVID-19 guidelines of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Newtown Police Lt named next Chief of Police

The Newtown Police Department has named the next chief of police.  Lt David Kullgren will step into the role when Chief James Viadero leaves to take a new state job.  The announcement was made at the Police Commission meeting on Tuesday.  Kullgren is the Newtown Police Department's administrative services bureau commander and has served on the force for over 20 years. He is a Newtown resident. Viadero is becoming chief inspector at the Office of the Inspector General.  The new role was created in the Police Accountability Bill.  He will be responsible for investigating police shootings.

Cause of fire in vacant Newtown restaurant is undetermined

The cause of a fire in Newtown that destroyed a vacant building is undetermined.  The fire at the former McGuire’s Ale House/Hot Shots January 14th required all 5 of the volunteer fire companies, plus mutual aid from several surrounding towns.  The Deputy Fire Marshal told The Newtown Bee that they're done investigating, unless some new information comes forward.  The state helped, with an arson dog, to rule out a location and a cause. The building’s insurance company will further investigate.  The fire quickly spread through the entire two-story building, and it became unstable, forcing an exterior attack.  An excavator was later brought in to pull down some walls so firefighters could further douse the embers.

Local lawmaker announces reelection bid

State Senator Julie Kushner is seeking a third term in the 24th District.  The Danbury Democrat and retired union organizer first took office in 2019.  Some of the items she campaigned on, paid family and medical leave and raising the minimum wage, have been implemented.  In a new term, Kushner says she wants to make health care more affordable and accessible, bring in funding for the schools and address housing affordability.  When Connecticut’s new voting district maps go into effect next year, the 24th District will no longer include Sherman and part of Bethel., but is gaining a portion of Ridgefield.

Area fire departments hit the water for ice rescue training

Several area fire departments have hit the water for ice rescue training.  Brookfield's volunteer fire departments had their new members put on ice rescue suits and go out on Candlewood Lake at the town park.  Older fire department members taught them how to rescue people who have fallen through the ice.  Brookfield officials say this type of emergency is a very low frequency but high risk event, and that doing annual training is essential.  Ridgefield firefighters on the "D" shift were out training a few days ago.  With the temperatures at or below freezing. Southbury Fire Department called it the best day for cold water rescue training.

Webinar tonight on EV fast-charging stations

A local lawmaker is encouraging residents to attend a virtual public workshop tonight.  The state Departments of Transportation and Energy and Environmental Protection are hosting the informational webinar tonight on EV fast-charging stations.  Brookfield state Representative Steve Harding, a member of the legislature's Environment Committee, says this will provide residents with information about what funds are available to help build out public EV fast-charging infrastructure across the state and what work has been done to identify the gaps in the network.  The webinar is at 7pm: https://bit.ly/3zBer3W

COVID-19 vaccine clinics around the region today

COVID-19 vaccine clinics are being held around the region today. 

Pediatric Pfizer doses are being administered at the Sherman School from 3pm to 7pm.  This no-appointment needed clinic is for children 5 to 11 years old.  Griffin Health will have a separate area for COVID-19 vaccines for anyone over age 12, with all vaccine brands available. 

There's a clinic in the Newtown High School Cafeteria from 3:30 to 7pm, and in Oxford at Haynes Group at Quarry Walk from 4pm to 7:30  Those sites will be offering all vaccine brands. Children 12 to 18 must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The mobile van will also be at New Fairfield High School on Saturday from 9am to 5pm for those 12 and older.  Pfizer, Moderna and J&J will be available.

Bethel looking to hire a Civil Engineer

The Town of Bethel is looking to hire a Civil Engineer to provide municipal engineering support.  That includes design, review, planning, construction inspection, project management and administration for various Bethel infrastructure projects.  Candidates must have the ability to assure compliance with Town, State and Federal Statutes and regulations for construction and development within Bethel.  Applications can be found on the Town’s website.  The position is open until filled.

Hat City Ball fundraiser to be at-home virtual event

The Danbury Museum & Historical Society has decided that next month's Hat City Ball fundraiser will be an at-home virtual event for a second year due to the pandemic.  The annual event raises funds for the museum and historical society and takes place this year on February 11th. Due to the change in plans, tickets have been reduced to $100 and will include to-go meals to be picked up at scheduled times on the 11th.

Danbury Fire Department adds new recruits

The Danbury Fire Department has welcomed seven new recruits to the ranks this week. Five of them will start at the Connecticut Fire Academy for their Recruit Firefighter Training next week, while the remaining two  are coming from other career fire departments and will go right on the line after a short local orientation. 

Region 9 Board of Ed gets enrollment projections

The Region 9 Board of Education has received an update on projected student enrollment numbers for the coming school year.  Joel Barlow is expected to have a decline to below 800 students.  The projection is based on factors including actual enrollment, town population, labor force numbers, housing and migration patterns.

Ridgefield considering leash law

Ridgefield officials have approved a leash law.  Residents will soon be able to weigh in on whether people walking with their dogs in downtown should have to keep the animal on a leash.  The text of the ordinance was adopted by the Board of Selectmen at their meeting last week.  The town's attorney will review the language and then it can be brought before a public hearing or town meeting. 

First Selectman Rudy Marconi says they're considering a formal leash law due to an increased presence of dogs on Main Street.  An exception would only be granted to Ridgefield Police Department’s K-9 unit.   Parks and Recreation and the Conservation Commission already have dog-leash regulations for parks and open-space. 

A leash ordinance could accompany Ridgefield's dog waste ordinance, which requires individuals to clean up after their dogs on public or town-owned properties.  

Marconi says people who walk their dogs on a leash have raised concerns about those that walk their dogs without one.  Nothing has happened in recent years, but they are trying to be proactive rather than reactive. Selectwoman Maureen Kozlark says most people she’s spoken with think Ridgefield already has a leash law in place.

Putnam County Executive: Mask mandate court rulings cause confusion in schools

An appeals judge has restored New York's mask mandate. Tuesday's ruling comes a day after a lower court judge ruled that Gov. Kathy Hochul's administration lacked the constitutional authority to order people to wear face coverings.  Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell said the Monday ruling caused confusion and disarray in school districts throughout the region, leaving children, in some cases, to bear the brunt of what she called a misguided state policy.  All of the districts in Putnam County notified parents that the mask rule is still in place.  But Odell says she heard reports of children as young as 6 years old being forced to socially distance in class because their parents sent them to school without a mask.

Danbury seeks to opt-out of state law allowing 'granny pods'

The Danbury Zoning Commission has scheduled a public hearing on a proposal to have the City opt out of a new state law that requires municipalities to allow accessory apartments, or so-called granny pods.  Starting this year, accessory apartments, which are also known as garage apartments or in-law suites, will be legal to build and rent to family or other tenants in residential and single-family areas. 

There is an opt-out provision for municipalities.  The municipal zoning commission and legislative body would have vote for the opt-out by a two-thirds majority.

The public hearing will be held March 8th. 

For municipalities that don't opt-out, accessory apartments would be limited to 30 percent of the principal dwelling or 1,000 square feet, whichever is smaller. The law prevents local zoning regulations from establishing minimum floor area requirements that exceed proper safety code.

Danbury Labor Market Area sees monthly employment gains

Connecticut's unemployment rate continues to drop and is now at 5.8 percent, down from November’s 6 percent. Connecticut added 600 jobs in December with job growth in six of ten supersectors.  This was the 12 consecutive month of job growth.

Connecticut has recovered about 3 quarters of the 292,000 jobs lost during the COVID lockdown.

Connecticut Department of Labor Director of Research Patrick Flaherty says December’s job growth was slower than it has been in previous months.  With no traditional big jump in temporary workers, he says the omicron variant and supply chain issues impacted the labor numbers.  He added that there are a lot of unfilled positions, businesses looking to hire a new workforce.

Two of the six Connecticut Labor Market Areas had monthly employment gains, while four had job declines in December.  The Danbury LMA added 300 jobs as did the New Haven area.  The Danbury market area grew by .4 percent since last month.  The Danbury Labor Market Area added 2.700 jobs in a year, growth of 3.8 percent. 

The Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk area posted the largest monthly job loss of 1,500 positions. This was followed by the Norwich-New London-Westerly area, the Hartford-West Hartford-East Hartford area and the Waterbury area.

5-year long Grange dispute nearing tipping point in Bridgewater

Bridgewater First Selectman Curtis Read says the 5-year long Grange dispute is nearing a tipping point.  The town has satisfied the final condition from the Connecticut Attorney General's Office to allow time for someone to step forward with enough money and a realistic plan to buy and restore the structure.  The asking price of the building is $400,000, and that would be a non-refundable deposit.  The deadline is Monday. 

A group called The Bridgewater Preservation Association wanted to buy the historic landmark on 11 Main Street South for $1, and restore it, but residents voted against the proposal in May. 

The building has no water supply well and no septic system, and contains asbestos and lead paint.  Bridgewater wants to demolish the building, salvage good wood and cleanup the site.  Bridgewater has a $100,000 state grant to do the prep work.

Potential uses for the Grange property in Bridgewater are being discussed.  The town is on the brink of being allowed to demolish the structure and clean up the state.  Potential plans include a memorial for Bridgewater veterans who served in wars since WWII and moving the soon to be restored "Captain's House" to its 4th location in town.  The House is now near the Burnham Library. 

First Selectman Curtis Read says it would be a place where people can sit and reflect on the beauty and history of the town. 

Redding reminding residents about mailbox repair policy

The last couple of winter storms involved heavy, wet snow.  The force of the plows moving the snow off the road also caused a number of issues with mailboxes in some Greater Danbury area towns.  Redding officials are reminding residents about the town's mailbox repair policy.  In the event a mailbox or post is physically struck by the Town Highway snowplow, the Town will reimburse the owner $25 for the post, and/or $25 for the mailbox. The cost of labor is not reimbursable. No mailbox or post will be repaired or replaced if damage was caused by the force of snow thrown by plows.  The Highway Department will investigate all reports and will advise the resident or taxpayer of the decision on reimbursement.

Newtown rejects proposed 27 unit development

The Newtown Planning and Zoning Commission has rejected a proposal from a developer for a 27-unit apartment building on a 1.6 acre residential lot.  Brookfield developer Robert Sherwood wanted to convert a single-family home on historic South Main Street, between a stretch of Victorian and Colonial homes on one side and commercial buildings on the other.  The three-story apartment building would have been screened with 10 foot evergreens, with 50 parking spaces on the property.  Neighbors raised concerns about the character of the building, the density, traffic impacts and school-age kids adding to enrollment in the district. 

DOT to replace traffic light lamps in Greater Danbury area

The Connecticut Department of Transportation is planning to replace LED lamps at State owned traffic signals in various municipalities. This includes in Bethel, Brookfield, Danbury, New Fairfield, Newtown, Redding and Ridgefield. 

The life expectancy of the existing LED lamps is approximately 8 years; the project will proactively replace lamps in order to keep traffic signals functioning in a state of good repair. The new LED lamps to be installed under the project have a life expectancy of approximately 15 years. 

The project will also replace circular red lights with red arrows at locations that are not currently in compliance with requirements, and green arrow indications at eligible exit ramps as extra emphasis against a wrong way driving.  The project also calls for replacing existing Walk/Don’t Walk Pedestrian Signals with Countdown Pedestrian Signals.

 

In Bethel:

Old Hawleyville Road

Fleetwood Avenue at Whitney Road

Route 302 at Judd Avenue

Wolfpits Road at Taylor Road

Route 302 at a private drive 

Benedict Road at Hawleyville Road

Beach Street at Reservoir Street

Garella Road

Francis Clarke Circle

South Street at Grassy Plain Estates

Big Y at Redwood Drive

 

In Bethlehem at Route East and West Streets and at Hard Hill Road North and Hard Hill Road South

In Bridgewater at Route 133 at Second Hill Road

 

In Brookfield:

Route 202 at Route 25 and Station Road

Candlewood Lake Road

Route 202

Highway ramps 

White Turkey Road Ext

Route 133 at Silvermine Road

Sandy Lane

Silvermine Road at Elbow Hill Road

Route 202 at the Industrial Park access drive

 

in Danbury:

White Turkey Road Ext at International Drive

Nabby Road

Stew Leonard's

Golden Hill Road at CVS

Old Sherman Turnpike

Route 202 and I-84 west and Sawmill Road

I-84 West on and off ramps

Westwood Village, Crestdale Road and Mill Plain Center West Site

Mill Plain Center East

WestConn Westside campus at Lake Avenue

Great Pasture Road

Riverview Drive

Jeanette Street

Aunt Hack Road

Starrs Plain Road

Bennetts Farm Road at a private drive

Old Brookfield Road at Home Depot

Eagle Road Ext

Prindle Lane

Westwood Drive

Highway ramps at Saw Mill Road

 

In New Fairfield at Gillotti Road, Heritage Plaza driveway and at Beaver Bog Road
 

In Newtown:

Mile Hill Road

Queen Street

Washington Street at Riverside Road

Meadowbrook Hill Road at Botsford Hill Road

Sand Hill Plaza

Button Shop Road at Sand Hill Plaza Drive

The Boulevard

 

In Redding at Great Pasture and Diamond Hill, Route 107 and North Main Street

 

In Ridgefield:

Silver Hill Road

Farmingville at Copps Hill Roads

Grove Street

Haviland Road at Limestone Road

Route 116

New Road

Copps Hill Plaza

Route 35

Buck Hill Road

Cains Hill Road at Topstone Road

at Regency/Laurel Ridge

Bethel hearing tonight into proposed affordable housing developments

The Bethel Planning and Zoning Commission is holding another public hearing tonight into a proposed affordable housing development on Cindy Lane.  A developer is looking to add a second story to an existing three-apartment dwelling, construct a two-story dwelling with six units and build a single residential structure.  If approved, 13 one-bedroom units would be located on the less-than-one-acre of land.  At least 3 would be designated as affordable under the state's 8-30g statute.  Developers can bypass certain local zoning laws if  at least 30 percent of the units are affordable for families earning 80 percent or less of the area or state median income. The hearing is at 7pm via Zoom.  There's also a continuation of a hearing on an application for 2 units of affordable housing at 112 Old Hawleyville Road.

Danbury Zoners pick back up hearing on SC Ridge application changes

The Danbury Zoning Commission is holding a virtual meeting tonight.  They're continuing the public hearing into amendments to SC Ridge's Master Plan for the Summit.  The changes would pave the way for the Danbury Career Academy to be built on the City's westside. The applicant is looking to reduce the number of apartments in the former Matrix Center so a City-run public school, serving 1,400 middle and high school students, could be located in three of the pods.  The meeting starts at 7:30 and is being held via Zoom.  There's also a continuation of the hearing into Blasius Auto on Walnut Street for a used car dealership.

Women's Business Development Council offering grants

Brookfield State Representative Stephen Harding is alerting eligible small businesses that the Women’s Business Development Council is offering grants ranging from $2,500 to $10,000.  Applications from qualified women-owned small businesses in Connecticut are due February 13th. Applicants must display a clearly defined project which will have a positive impact on its growth and profitability.  https://ctwbdc.org/

Newtown Police Department has new Patrol Sergeant

The Newtown Police Department has a new Patrol Sergeant.  13 year veteran John McDermott took the oath of office for his new role yesterday.  He was  officially promoted to the rank by unanimous vote of the Police Commission last week.  The vacancy was created by Sgt. Hynes, who is retiring effective February 1st after nearly 27 years on the job.  McDermott will conduct two weeks of on the job training in his new role before running a shift solo.  Newtown Police officials say during his career, McDermott has been heavily involved in community services such as the Cadet Program, Special Olympics, and crime prevention.  He has served as a Field Training Officer and has developed his skills as a first line supervisor coordinating the Cadet program and teaching new officers.

HRRA annual recycling billboard contest underway

The Housatonic Resources Recovery Authority's annual recycling billboard contest is underway for students in Kindergarten through 12th grade.  The 2022 Theme is Recycle your Food Scraps! Compost!  The artwork deadline is February 25th.  Student prizes range from $25 to $250.  The teacher, school or organization that has the grand prize winner will receive $500 for their classroom or school to support recycling education.  Complete contest rules and information can be found on the HRRA website.

Easton Police hiring dispatcher

The Easton Police Department is currently accepting applications for a part-time Dispatcher.  Applicants must be available weekends, holidays, and for all shifts 24/7.  Duties include handling 911 and routine calls, data entry, interacting with Police, Fire and EMS personnel, and maintaining confidentiality.  The candidate must have a High School diploma, experience and computer skills preferred. A background check including criminal history and drug screening will be performed prior to hiring for this position.

Special Town Meeting in Bethel tonight on Clarke Park expansion

A Special Town Meeting is being held in Bethel tonight.  The meeting is about the expansion of Clarke Park. The Bethel Board of Selectmen recommended and the Board of Finance approved appropriating up to $872,633 for the balance of funding for the construction project.  Funding would come from the Town of Bethel unreserved, undesignated fund balance.  This money would supplement a state Department of Economic and Community Development grant of $635,017.  Plans call for adding four commercial lots, totaling 13.2 acres, along with water and sewer.  If the town funding is approved, plans have to be submitted to the state.  Tonight's meeting is at 6:30pm.

New initiative called HeatSmart Bethel launched

The town of Bethel has launched a new initiative called HeatSmart Bethel.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker called it an opportunity to cut energy costs while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  Bethel has partnered with the nonprofit People’s Action for Clean Energy, to develop a yearlong outreach program. 

The initiative will help residents access the programs and incentives available through EnergizeCT.  HeatSmart streamlines the home weatherization process by scheduling affordable energy evaluations for participants, and provides educational presentations to better inform people about heating and cooling choices. 

The cost of a Home Energy Solutions visit, which typically provides services worth hundreds of dollars, is $50, or free to those who are income eligible.  During the audit, utility-certified technicians evaluate the home's energy performance, run a safety check of the current heating system, add weather stripping, seal air leaks, and faucet aerators and low-flow showerheads.  Technicians will also provide written recommendations for deeper energy-saving measures such as insulation, high-efficiency heating and cooling, water heating, windows and appliances.  For some income eligible residents, some of these secondary measures may be free. 

Participants who have an energy audit completed through the program will be eligible for a $250 drawing, which will take place in November.  

Brookfield First Selectman responds to being unmasked in school buildings

A local elected official is defending her decision to not wear a facemask in school building while attending Parks and Rec basketball games.  The Newstimes reports that Brookfield First Selectman Tara Carr, a Republican who was elected in November, attended 6 games at the High School, Whisconier Middle School and Huckleberry Hill Elementary School.  A gubernatorial executive order requires masks in schools and certain other facilities.  Carr says the mandates are not enforceable, noting that several others were not wearing masks, adding that no one asked them to put masks on.  The games were not school-sponsored events, despite being held in the schools, so no school employees were there to enforce the mandate.  It would have been up to Parks and Rec staff, town employees, to enforce the mandate.

DOT to replace traffic lights in New Milford

The state Department of Transportation is launching a project to replace traffic signal lights in certain towns.  The DOT will be relamping parts of New Milford, replacing the current lights, with a life expectancy of 8 years, with the new ones that have a life expectancy of 15 years.  The Roads to be fitted with the new LED Lights in New Milford include Route 7 in the area of Pickett District, Sunny Valley, Route 109, and Chestnuland, Railroad Street at the Bridge, Grove at Main and Route 7 at Sullivan, Peglar, Still River and Dodd roads as well as Home Depot. There is no set timeline for the replacement project.

Danbury seeks food truck operator bids for Rogers Park

The City of Danbury is accepting proposals from experienced parties interested in operating Vending at Rogers Park this spring and summer.  The terms of the lease are for operation from April 1st through October 31st.  The City notes that with continuing uncertainty with the COVID-19 pandemic, if there are delays in the opening of Rogers Park, all awarded bids will be prorated to reflect the lease amount.  Proposals should include business plans, such as intended days and hours of operation and menu items to be offered.  Danbury established Rogers Park as a vendor free zone and only those vendors that have been awarded the bid for three designated spots will be allowed to vend inside the park. This includes Memorial Drive and Lion's Way. No other motorized or push cart vending will be allowed on the park streets or sidewalks. Danbury Youth Baseball will continue to run their concession as in past years.  Proposals are due by February 17th.

Local lawmaker opposes statewide mask mandate in schools

 

An area legislator does not support a continued statewide mask mandate in schools.  Newtown state Senator Tony Hwang says he will not support any further extension of Governor Lamont’s emergency executive powers.  This follows comments from the Governor requesting that the legislature codify 11 remaining executive orders into law, including a statewide school mask requirement.  Hwang says these orders, along with any issues affecting the state, should be debated by lawmakers. He says without demonstrated medical data and science-based research facts, he will not support a statewide imposed school mask mandate.  Hwang says at this point the social-emotional cost is outweighing the perceived good that universal mask mandates in schools provide.

Proposal raised for senior housing at former Bethel Police station site

A Bethel official is proposing a use for the old police station site.  The Plumtrees Road station has been mostly vacant since 2018 when the new police department was opened on Judd Avenue.  The old building was used as an office by the school construction firm during Rockwell and Johnson renovations.  Selectman Rich Straiton wants the town to look into constructing affordable senior housing.  He says there's a multi-year waiting list of senior housing at the town's only municipally owned development, Reynolds Ridge.  The Simeon Village development is privately owned age-restricted housing.  Straiton says a number of affordable housing units have been developed in recent years, but a lot of the seniors can't afford them.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker referred the proposal to the Housing Authority.  He noted that the town is looking to retain an engineering firm to determine what is in the old police station building that needs to be remediated before demolition.  OSHA has deemed the old firing range a hazardous site due to lead dust.

Newtown man arrested for attempted burglary at CVS overnight

A Newtown man has been arrested for attempting to break into a business in Newtown early this morning. Shortly after 1am, Officers responded to an alarm at the CVS on Queen Street and saw 23-year old Mark Zavatsky attempting to gain entry into the building.  He fled on foot and an Officer quickly apprehended him.  He was charged with criminal attempt at burglary, possession of burglary tools, and criminal mischief.

Himes announces winners of Congressional App Challenge

Congressman Jim Himes has announced the winners of the Congressional App Challenge, designed to engage students’ creativity and encourage participation in computer  science and coding.  The 4th District winners this year are from Darien High School for an app that was related to health and fitness, allowing users to track their progress towards building healthy habits, such as sleeping more and drinking more water.  A Wilton High School student placed 3rd.  Middle and high school students nationwide compete within their congressional district by creating and exhibiting their software application, or “app,”  for mobile, tablet, or computer devices.

Danbury seeks bids for concessions operator, dock improvements at Candlewood Town Park

The City of Danbury is looking for bids from contractors for a proposed commercial watercraft dock at Candlewood Town Park.  The commercial grade watercraft dock is to be welded aluminum construction.  The gangway require modifications of a handrail must be ADA accessible because this is a public dock and must meet Federal/State ADA compliance requirements.  The City is asking for bidders to provide manufacturers lead times from placement of order.  Bids are due February 10th.

The City of Danbury is leasing the Beach Concession Stand at the Danbury Candlewood Town Park and looking for operators to place bids.  The five year lease, during the summer months from May 1st through the last day of September, is for the 2022-2026 seasons.  Interested parties must submit the names of the principals involved, business plans, and certified financial statement to reflect financial condition for the past five years among other qualifications.  The deadline to submit proposals is February 17th.

Danbury Schools experience enrollment growth

The City of Danbury Public School system continues to experience an enrollment increase.  The number of students in the district has reached a new high, surpassing 12,000 as of the start of the month.  Superintendent Kevin Walston says enrollment just back in October was 11,813.  He notes there's been a significant increase in the number of ninth graders, continued growth at the middle schools and some at the elementary level.

Bethel state Rep. to seek 3rd term

State Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan has announced plans to seek a third term.  The 2nd Assembly District currently includes portions of Danbury, Bethel, Redding and Newtown.  Reapportionment means that after the 2022 election, the district will have larger portions of Bethel and Danbury, but no longer include Redding and Newtown.  Redding is moving entirely into the 135th district, currently represented by Democrat Anne Hughes.  Most of Newtown remains in the 106th district, with the northeastern corner moving into the 107th.

Applicants sought for vacancies on Newtown boards and commissions

There are a couple of vacancies on Newtown boards and commissions.  The Commission on Aging has two alternate vacancies and the Inland Wetlands Commission has a vacancy available to a Democrat or unaffiliated voter.  The Sustainable Energy Commission has an open position available to any registered voter.  The Board of Ethics has two alternate vacancies, one available to a Republican or unaffiliated voter, one available to a Democrat or unaffiliated voter.  Resumes are due by January 31.

Virtual Juvenile Justice Forum tonight held by Newtown state legislative delegation

A Juvenile Justice Forum is being held virtually tonight by members of the Newtown state legislative delegation.  Representatives Mitch Bolinsky and Tony Scott will be joined by Senator Tony Hwang for a discussion led by Judiciary Committee ranking member Representative Craig Fishbein.  They says this is in response to  concerns of residents statewide who are alarmed by the rise in juvenile crime, including a rampant increase in incidents involving the theft of motor vehicles. 

Tonight's Zoom forum is at 6:30.  The lawmakers plant to discuss a proposal to address an ongoing increase in juvenile crime. 

Bolinsky says Newtown Police Administrative Sgt Jeff Silver reported that during the summer and fall of 2021, Newtown saw a rash of car break-ins, mostly committed by juveniles, and difficult to investigate. 

In 2020, Connecticut saw a 40 percent increase in car thefts, which totaled more than 8,400, the highest rate since 2011. 

Congresswoman presides over debate on National Guard & Reserve GI Bill Parity Act

5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes has presided over debate on the National Guard and Reserve GI Bill Parity Act.  She voted in support of the legislation to make Guardsmen and reservists eligible for GI Bill benefits in more circumstances.  Hayes says those members have been utilized at unprecedented levels recently and they deserve equal access.  The bill passed the House and must still be voted on by the Senate.  The measure would allow any day getting paid and being in uniform on federal orders, including for training, count toward eligibility for school tuition benefits under the post-9/11 GI Bill.   Currently, not all deployments for the National Guard allow them to accrue GI Bill benefits.  Time on active duty for training also doesn't currently count.

Local fire department warning of the dangers of frozen pipes

A local fire department is warning of the dangers of frozen pipes.  Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company responded to a couple of water leaks last night.  One was in a residential home and the other in a commercial occupancy. 

Fire officials say subfreezing temperatures like those over the last few days can freeze pipes. The thaw that follows when the temperatures creep back up can cause unprotected pipes to burst. 

They reminded homeowners to properly insulate and heat all areas where there is plumbing.  Anyone with a vacant or not heated building it is advised to shut off and drain the water to that structure to prevent a leak.

Area legislators hosting forum on Juvenile Justice

Two area legislators are hosting a forum this week on Juvenile Justice.  New Fairfield Representative Pat Callahan and Steve Harding of Brookfield, both members of the General Assembly's Judiciary Committee,  will lead the virtual information forum Wednesday via Zoom.  They will focus on the escalation of juvenile crime and specific legislative proposals to help stop that trend. There will also be an opportunity for those in attendance to ask questions following the 6:30pm presentation. The forum will be moderated by State Representative Craig Fishbein, who serves as the Ranking Member of the Committee.

Newtown officials looking at modest tax rate increase

Newtown officials are looking at a modest tax rate increase in the coming fiscal year.  First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said during a meeting last week that he never likes spending money or having a tax increase, but the proposed school and municipal budgets would result in a .5 percent increase.  The proposed municipal budget is $45.7 million, a 5-percent increase over the current year, while the schools are looking for $83 million, a 4.35 percent increase.  Rosenthal says growth in the town’s tax base, including an unexpected jump in the motor vehicle grand list, may help offset new spending.  The budget review process will include public hearings and a referendum.

Brookfield Board of Ed adopts proposed budget

The Brookfield Board of Ed has adopted a proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.  The $48.5 million plan is a 3.61 percent increase over the current year.  The proposed budget includes changes due to inflation, health benefits, transportation, contracts, and a legally required elementary school bilingual teacher.  Oil and heat costs are expected to rise nearly 50 percent from the last fiscal year while maintenance supply costs increased by 131 percent.  The budget plan must be submitted to the First Selectman by next Monday.

New Fairfield Board of Ed to hold forums on proposed budget

The New Fairfield Board of Education is looking into a nearly 4-percent increase in their spending request for the coming fiscal year.  Superintendent Pat Cosentino presented a $43.2 million budget to the Board last week.  She says there's a number of critical programs and initiatives included in the $1.65 million increase over the current year.  Employee benefits and health insurance is nearly 15 percent of the proposed spending plan.  Payroll accounts for about 62 percent of the proposed budget.  The Board of Ed plans to hold virtual budget meetings tomorrow and Thursday, as well as next Tuesday.  The New Fairfield Board of Finance asked the Selectmen and schools to aim for zero-percent increases as debt service for the town’s two school building projects is expected to drive up the tax rate.

Local lawmaker to get constituent input ahead of new session

The 2022 legislative session kicks off in a couple of weeks. New Fairfield State Representative Patrick Callahan, whose 108th District seat also covers Sherman and parts of New Milford and Danbury, has put together a brief survey to hear from constituents before the session starts.  In the survey, he outlines the major issues that could come up for debate this session.
https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/7XFZS2C

Bethel is to hire purchasing agent/ accounting assistant

The Town Of Bethel is looking to hire a purchasing agent/ accounting assistant.  This person must be able to perform the technical and specialized procurement of supplies, materials and services for all Bethel departments.  A Degree in Accounting or Business Administration or related field is required, plus three years experience.  The full time job has a starting salary of $47,500, with a maximum of $55,882. 

Wilton Police looking to hire entry level police officer

The Wilton Police Department is looking to hire an entry level police officer.   An application and full job description can be found at policeapp.com.  The patrol officer salary range is from about $67,000 to $92,000.  Candidates must take and pass the the entry level written exam and CHIP test before applying. The deadline for applying is February 19th.

Bethel RTC makes first endorsements in Conn. for 2022 statewide election

The Bethel Republican Town Committee is the first town in Connecticut to endorse Bob Stefanowski for Governor.  They also endorsed George Logan for the 5th Congressional District race, and Tony Hwang and Eric Berthel for Connecticut State Senate seats representing Bethel. 

Stony Hill firefighters help residents shovel driveway

Stony Hill Volunteer Fire Company members went out to help a resident in need during the snow storm yesterday.  The fire company received a call at the station from a man needing a recommendation on snow plow companies as his usual one was unavailable. He needed to get to the pharmacy to get medication but couldn’t due to his snow covered driveway.  In the interest of time, a group of 4 members loaded up their snowblower and shovels  and headed out.  They cleared the driveway and the man went on his way.

Sherman EMTs headed out on foot in snowstorm to get to patient

A patient in Sherman had to be shuttled by EMTs from their home yesterday to a waiting UTV because the ambulance and fire apparatus couldn't make it up the road. Sherman Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched to a medical call around 10am on a report of a person having difficulty breathing. About a quarter of a mile from the house, the ambulance and Utility 6 were unable to pass due to the steep terrain, ice and snow on the roadway. The EMS team went out, on foot, with needed equipment to stabilize the patient while the Polaris Ranger UTV was dispatched. Sherman Public Works was notified to plow and sand the road.  The patient was successfully treated and transported by ambulance to New Milford Hospital.  

COVID-19 data for Greater Danbury area updated by DPH

The state department of Public Health is reporting COVID-19 case rates for the Greater Danbury area ranging from 104 to 206 per 100,000 population, down from a range of 143 to 241 last week. The lowest case rate is in Redding and the highest is in Danbury, based on population. 

The rates are:

Redding 104.2

Ridgefield 132.8

Newtown 147.3

New Fairfield 153.9

Bethel 177.5

Brookfield 183.1

New Milford 183.6

Danbury 206.6

The state Department of Public Health is reporting COVID-19 infection rates for the Greater Danbury area ranging from  20 to 35 percent, down from a range of  22.5 to 31.9 percent last week.  The lowest test positivity is in Ridgefield and the highest is in Danbury.  The rates are:

Ridgefield 19.4 percent

Redding 20.2 percent

Newtown 22 percent

New Milford 24.2 percent 

Bethel 27.5 percent

Brookfield 28.7 percent 

New Fairfield 32.4 percent 

Danbury 34.9 percent 

According to the latest data, Danbury reported 2,450 cases in the last two weeks.  Bethel has had 492 cases, there were 435 COVID cases in Brookfield, and New Fairfield reported 299.  There were 689 COVID cases in New Milford, 575 in Newtown, Redding reported 133 cases in the last two weeks while Ridgefield had 464. 

Redding offering free Radon testing to residents

January is National Radon Action Month.  Radon is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. It is a naturally occurring radioactive gas formed from the decay of uranium and is found in rock, soil, and water.  The Redding Health Department is offering free radon testing for air and water to the first 20 residents who register.  The best time to test is during the winter months, during the heating season.  Those interested can contact the Redding Health Department at 203-938-2559 or by email at health@townofreddingct.org.

Open Choice Program for Danbury students delayed

While the state has set aside funding to have 50 students from each Danbury and Norwalk High Schools attend classes in neighboring municipalities, the towns around Danbury have not yet acted joining the Open Choice Program.  Coordinator Eric Nyquist says they hope to implement the program in the 23-24 academic year instead.  Bethel school officials say they have growing enrollment and can't accommodate out-of-district students.  Ridgefield has not yet discussed Open Choices.  New Fairfield was concerned with the cost of special education if the sending district didn't agree with findings of a needs assessment. 

New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department to purchase new boat

The New Fairfield Board of Selectmen has approved the purchase of a new boat for the New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department. Replacement of Marine 1 had been planned for later, but an agreement was made to donate the old boat to the Candlewood Lake Authority. 

$106,250 from town contributions to the fire department’s apparatus reserve fund will be used, with the Fire Department footing the balance, about $39,000. 

Ball Pond Volunteer Fire Company 1st Lt Chris Gardner says the current boat, which was gifted to the police department before being donated to the fire department, is useful for getting on the lake and transporting personnel and equipment.  But he says it's not practical for rescues.  The new boat will allow on-the-water medical attention to be provided while transporting patients back to land. 

New Fairfield responds to the most lake-related calls of all the five surrounding towns.

Three bids were submitted, but two were over budget and the boat was too big.  Connor Industries, also known as Stanley Boats, was selected.  The new Marine 1 will have a roll-up door, lighting and other equipment. 

Gardner says COVID-related supply chain problems drove prices up 15 to 20 percent, and there's a long wait.

Danbury COVID-19 case rates start to decline

Danbury has reported 2,450 COVID-19 cases to the state Department of Public Health in the last two weeks.  The case rate as of January 15th is 206.6, down from 241.8 per 100,000 population last week.  Danbury has a test positivity rate of 34.9 percent, about equal to last week. 

All but one of Connecticut's municipalities remain in the red zone alert level for COVID-19 community spread.  Just Canaan again is not showing 15 or more cases per 100,000 population over the last two weeks.  That town is in the grey with fewer than 5 cases.  

According to data, COVID-19 test positivity rates across the Greater Danbury area remain about the same as the previous week.  The latest data is for the two weeks ending January 15th.  Officials expect the test positivity rate to decline starting in next week's report, in part because of at-home test kits being more widely available and in part because of the sharp fall off of Omicron variant infections. 

The COVID-19 case rates in the Greater Danbury area have started to drop in this week's reporting period, though they are still elevated compared to previous waves of the pandemic.

Danbury opens several Warming Centers

Danbury has opened several Warming Centers as the temperatures plunge back into single digits.  The shelter at New Street is open today and tomorrow 8am to 6pm.  The War Memorial is open today until 10pm, tomorrow 7am to 10pm and Sunday 7am to 5pm.  Danbury Library is open 10am to 5pm today, and 10 to 2 tomorrow.  Anyone in need of shelter is urged to call 2-1-1 to get connected to these services. Safety measures have been enacted at shelters throughout the state to adhere to the needs of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.  Governor Lamont extended Connecticut’s Severe Cold Weather Protocol  through noon on Wednesday.

Danbury to host virtual workshop about housing affordability

The City of Danbury is hosting a virtual workshop about housing affordability.  The City is in the process of preparing an Affordable Housing Plan and want community input in developing policies that will guide Danbury in meeting the affordable housing needs.  Residents are urged to attend the virtual workshop on Monday via Zoom from 6pm to 8pm to discuss thoughts and concerns.  City residents can also weigh in by taking an online survey at www.surveymonkey.com/r/DanburyAHP

Supply chain issues delay completion of New Milford Library

Supply chain disruptions that have been sweeping the country have had a serious effect on the timing of the New Milford Library building project. Mayor Pete Bass says despite the fact that crews are working hard every day and much progress has been made, the originally planned completion date at the end of January can no longer be achieved.  The anticipated date of project completion will now be June.  As the summer approaches, Bass says he and the Library Board of Trustees will be sharing official information on an opening date and events as the project progresses. The library continues to operate in a hybrid model.

Conn. finds new lab partners for COVID-19 testing in Danbury, Kent

State officials say they have found replacements for the lab company that handles most of Connecticut’s state-run coronavirus testing, including the sites in Danbury at Pat Waldron Hall and at the Kent Transfer Station.  Department of Administrative Services Commissioner Josh Geballe says some final details are being worked out. SEMA4 processes tests from 16 of the roughly two dozen state sites.  The Stamford-based company told investors and state officials last month that it would stop COVID-19 testing in mid-January and return its focus to genomic testing, its core business. Sema4 later agreed to continue the coronavirus testing through the end of this month.

Flag flown over Bethel Fire Dept. headed to the Olympics

Bethel Fire & EMS, along with the help of the Bethel Police Department, say they had the unique honor of flying an American Flag that will be heading to Beijing with Team USA.  This flag was one of four taking part in a special relay, flying above first responder agencies in 19 states.  The flag is now on its way to meet up with the Olympic athletes of USA Bobsled & Skeleton.  Should Team USA win, the flag will be raised on the podium next month.

Sledding behind New Fairfield High School banned due to construction

Due to construction activity behind New Fairfield High School, effective immediately, there will be no sledding or other recreational activity allowed in that area. The work itself and the location of construction equipment pose a safety hazard to those in the area. New Fairfield officials expect the work to be completed within the next 3 weeks.  New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department is offering some reminders about ice safety.  They caution that the strength of ice cannot be determined just by its appearance, age, thickness, or the temperature.  New ice is usually stronger than old ice. Four inches of clear, newly-formed ice may support one person, while a foot or more of old, partially-thawed ice may not.  Ice also seldom freezes uniformly. It may be a foot thick in one location and only an inch or two just a few feet away.

Sherman firefighters call for driveways, sidewalks to be cleared

Sherman Volunteer Fire Department is calling on residents to make sure driveways and walkways are cleared after the storm, and check with neighbors to see if they need help.  With winter finally here, fire officials says getting access to driveways and houses has been difficult in the past week due to ice and snow. This can cause safety issues for EMS crew and patients, as well as time delays in emergent transports.

Chimney fire in Brookfield extinguished

A chimney fire in Brookfield was quickly extinguished last night.  Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company responded to Shores Hill Road and doused the fire.  Residents are being reminded to clean chimneys before use, annually at a minimum, and have a dry chem extinguisher on hand in case a fire in the chimney does occur.

Newtown investigating robbery

The Newtown Police Detective Bureau is looking for help in locating a vehicle involved in a robbery.  The crime happened in the area of Huntingtown Road between midnight and 5am yesterday.  The vehicle is described as a champagne or gold colored 2 door sedan.  The vehicle was occupied by two individuals, a Hispanic male with dark colored hair and a white male with red hair and a long red beard.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Detective Harold at 203 270-4255.

Candlewood Lake Authority issues warning about ice safety

The Candlewood Lake Authority is cautioning residents that ice is never completely safe.  When the water level underneath a layer of ice changes, it can destabilize the ice and present a hazard.  The annual drawdown is underway and FirstLight expects the level to continue to fall in the coming weeks. 

Public hearing held in Danbury on selling City-owned building to Savings Bank of Danbury

A public hearing has been held in Danbury on plans to sell a City-owned building to Savings Bank of Danbury.  The City Council is looking to put 3 Post Office Street, the former Tuxedo Junction building, back on the tax rolls.  

Only three people spoke during the hearing.  Mayor Dean Esposito backs the plans.  Developer Joe DaSilva says he wanted to purchase the former nightclub when the City did to ensure it would never be another nightclub.  He supports the bank's plans as it will not be detrimental to the quality of life of residents in his nearby apartment building.  Another neighboring property owner also spoke in support. 

Savings Bank of Danbury wants to construct a 35,000 square foot office building at the corner of Main and White Streets by demolishing the former nightclub and the former Regional YMCA of Western Connecticut Escape to the Arts facility.  The new building would house the bank’s non-branch, back office operations. 

3 Post Office Street, which has been vacant since 2015, was purchased by the City in 2017 for $395,000. According to Vision Appraisal, it's worth $606,000. Negotiations on the sale price are expected after an official appraisal is completed.

Councilman Ben Chianese opposed the sale, but supports the corner of White and Main Streets being developed by Savings Bank of Danbury. He wants the City to put the municipally-owned parcel out to bid again.  But Danbury officials say the building has fallen into disrepair since the City took ownership and needs $600,000 to $1 million worth of work in order for it to be occupied by a tenant. 

Former Mayor Mark Boughton is providing free consulting services to Savings Bank of Danbury.

Savings Bank of Danbury will continue to use its location at 220 Main Street as its headquarters. CEO Martin Morgado says the new location will enable them to consolidate operations and provide dynamic meeting space and operations facilities.  Morgado hopes to gain all necessary approvals and have the new building opened by the end of 2023. 

Savings Bank of Danbury is the oldest continuously operating business in the City, dating back to 1849. The last significant building project in Danbury for the bank was in 1999 with the construction of their location at 35 West Street. At that time, the Bank had 65 employees and $362 million in assets. Today, Savings Bank of Danbury has over 200 employees and $1.4 billion in assets.

Kent seeks input on spending federal pandemic relief dollars

The Town of Kent was awarded over $800,000 in funds from the federal American Rescue Plan Act to provide residents, businesses, and community organizations with financial help to recover from the impact of the COVID19 pandemic. The Kent Board of Selectmen created the ARPA Needs Assessment Committee to conduct a community needs assessment and make recommendations on the potential uses.  The committee is asking residents to weigh in, by taking an online survey, on the best way to spend the money. 

DEEP investigating illegal shooting of red-tailed hawk in Oxford

State Environmental Conservation Police are investigating the illegal shooting of a red-tailed hawk in Oxford.  The bird was observed to be impaled with an arrow in the vicinity of Thorson  Road and North Mark Drive in late December.  The hawk was successfully captured and is being treated by a licensed wildlife rehabilitator, who also found embedded BBs and an air rifle pellet.  Anyone with information about this case is asked to contact the Environmental Conservation Police 24-hour tip line at 860-424-3333.  Under the federal Migratory Bird Treaty Act, it is illegal to take, injure, or harass any bird of prey. Property owners may not kill birds of prey in defense of livestock without proper permission.

Candlewood Lake drawdown underway

The annual Candlewood Lake drawdown has started following some repairs at the generating station. As of yesterday morning, the lake has dropped roughly 2 to 3 feet, and FirstLight expects the level to continue to fall in the coming weeks.  This year is an intermediate drawdown, in-between the normal shallow and deep patterns of past drawdowns.  The level will likely drop an additional 3.5 to 5.5 feet.

WCSU Spring semester starts, boosters recommended

Today was the first day of the West Conn Spring semester.  Classes are being held in person.  Boosters are highly recommended for all those eligible, but are not being required.  Proof of that vaccination must be filed with West Conn Health Services online, though students who were fully vaccinated last semester, and turned in their paperwork, do not need to re-submit their information.  Students with exemptions will be required to wear masks, socially distance on campus, and submit the results of weekly COVID-19 PCR tests to Health Services.  Weekly PCR testing will begin on campus next week.

Founding principal of Danbury's ACE has die

The founding principal of Danbury’s alternative high school, the Alternative Center for Excellence, has died.  Joe Pepin passed away January 14th at age 85.  He also taught math, and was named Teacher of the Year in 1996.  Pepin served on community groups, including Danbury Common Council, Exchange Club of Danbury, Catholic War Veterans Post and Beaver Brook Volunteer Fire Company, among others. He served in the U.S. Navy Reserve.  He will be laid to rest today.  ACE was created after the race riots at Danbury High School in the 1970s to better support the individual needs of students who face challenges or trauma that prevents them from succeeding at the traditional high school. The school opened in 1977.

School budget hearings in New Milford started

A series of budget hearings has started in New Milford.  School Superintendent Alisha DiCorpo is seeking a 3.58 percent increase over this year's budget, for a total of $68.2 million.  The budgets for grades K through 5 were discussed last night.  6th through 12th will be heard at 7 o'clock tonight via Zoom.  A district-wide budget discussion will be held on Tuesday.  The New Milford Board of Education plans to adopt a budget at their meeting a week from tonight.  The proposal will then be sent to the New Milford Town Council.  DiCorpo is proposing a 6 percent increase in professional services, which includes legal, technological, curriculum development, medical, and substitute services.  A 6.5 percent increase has been proposed in other services, including transportation and communications.

Danbury COVID-19 test site sees significant drop in attendees

There's been a significant decrease in the number of people looking for free COVID-19 testing in Danbury at the state-sponsored site.  Testing this week moved back to the Pat Waldron building on Memorial Drive.  700 PCR tests are available each day.  Testing during the week is done from 3pm to 7pm and on weekends from 9am to 3pm. 

There's a new traffic pattern, and police are guiding cars to the site.  Electronic portable signs will also be used to alert motorists if testing capacity has been reached before the scheduled closing time. 

Health Director Kara Prunty says they were doing 700 to 800 tests a day around the holidays, but it's since dropped to about 100 to 200 tests daily. 

SEMA4 is only running testing through the end of the month.  State officials are still working to replace the lab company, but don't anticipate any sites shutting down.  

Danbury man arrested on variety of drug offenses

A Danbury man has been arrested for a variety of drug offenses.  An investigation was launched into multiple neighbor complaints about 24-year old Anthony "Pablo" Abrahams selling illicit drugs throughout the City.  Police say he was seen on many occasions meeting with suspected drug buyers. 

Search warrants were granted by the courts and carried out yesterday evening at his Morton Street home. 

Abrahams was stopped after parking in a private parking lot located several miles away. He briefly resisted, but was taken into custody.  Abrahams was found in possession of a substantial quantity of narcotics packaged for sale.  At his house, police found several ounces of crack cocaine and fentanyl, drug paraphernalia and several thousand dollars cash.

Abrahams was charged with two counts each of possession of a controlled substance and with intent to sell.  He was also charged with risk of injury to a child and possession of drug paraphernalia.  He held on $250,000 bond.

Hearing tonight on Danbury's plan to sell city-owned former Tuxedo Junction building

A public hearing is being held tonight in Danbury on plans to sell a City-owned building to Savings Bank of Danbury.  The City Council is looking to put 3 Post Office Street, the former Tuxedo Junction building, back on the Grand List.  Tonight's hearing is at 7pm in Council Chambers at City Hall.  Savings Bank of Danbury wants to construct a 35,000 square foot office building at the corner of Main and White Streets by demolishing the former nightclub and the former Regional YMCA of Western Connecticut Escape to the Arts facility.  The new building would house the bank’s non-branch, back office operations.  3 Post Office Street, which has been vacant since 2015, was purchased by the City in 2017 for $395,000. According to Vision Appraisal, it's worth $606,000. Negotiations on the sale price are expected after an official appraisal is completed.

Newtown Charter Revision Commission recommends Board of Finance be eliminated

The Newtown Charter Revision Commission is recommending that the Board of Finance be eliminated.  Initial discussions were that Finance become an appointed advisory board, but members were divided.  There was a larger consensus around eliminating the board. 

A Charter Revision Commission member, who is a former Legislative Councilman, noted that the Council, as the town’s fiscal authority, can ignore the Board of Finance and often does.  A bipartisan financial advisory board could be set up by the Legislative Council if the proposed revision is approved. 

The Commission's next meeting will be virtual and is set for Monday at 7pm. 

The Board of Finance was the town’s original fiscal authority and eliminated in 1975 with the creation of the Legislative Council. It was re-created as a fiscal authority in the 2001 Charter revision, with changes to some of the duties of the Legislative Council so that they did not conflict or overlap. 

First Selectman Dan Rosenthal said during a Board of Finance meeting recently that the Board should set financial policy in town, such as debt service and budget growth, and it should have teeth in setting that policy, with the council needing a supermajority to override those policy decisions.  But he says the Board of Finance should not be involved in budget transfers or even in the budget process.

Federal Gov't. making COVID-19 tests, masks available for free

The COVID-19 numbers have continued to rise throughout Connecticut. The average daily case rate in Redding has jumped over the last 4 weeks from 30 cases per 100,000 population to 143.  The test positivity rate in Redding increased during the last 4 weeks from 6.9 percent to 26.1 percent. 

Health Officer Doug Hartline says getting fully vaccinated, masking, distancing, and staying home when sick is imperative. 

The public can begin ordering free home-test kits through a new government website.  Orders at https://www.covidtests.gov/ are limited to 4 per residential address. Tests will ship within 7-12 days of ordering.

People with private insurance will also be able to get over-the-counter tests reimbursed when purchased at pharmacies or retailers. There’s a limit of 8 tests a month per individual.

The Biden administration will begin making 400 million N95 masks available for free to Americans starting next week. The step comes after federal officials emphasized the masks' better protection against the omicron variant of COVID-19 over cloth face coverings. The White House said Wednesday the masks will come from the government's Strategic National Stockpile, which has more than 750 million of the highly protective masks on hand. The masks will be available for pickup at pharmacies and community health centers across the country. The White House says the masks will begin shipping this week for distribution starting late next week.

Putnam County modifies COVID-19 testing schedule

Putnam County has modified their COVID-19 testing schedule.  The Carmel location, at the Paladin Center, is now open 7 days a week from 9am to 7pm.  This is for Putnam County residents only and appointments are required.  Putnam County vaccination clinics are being held at the former Dressbarn in Putnam Plaza in Carmel.  Moderna and Pfizer boosters are being provided, as well as first and second dose pediatric Pfizer vaccines for kids 5 to 11.  This service is also by appointment only.  No walk-ins will be accepted.

Danbury Zoning Commission leaves hearing open into The Summit master plan revisions

During an already contentious Danbury Zoning Commission meeting, where some members tried to overturn the vote on a chairmanship, Zoners squabbled over whether or not to postpone a vote on revisions to The Summit's application.  The changes would pave the way for the Danbury Career Academy to be built on the City's westside. 

The applicant is looking to reduce the number of apartments in the former Matrix Center so a City-run public school, serving 1,400 middle and high school students, could be located in three of the pods. 

Republican Commission member Rob Melillo made a motion to close the public hearing, but then three members requested site visits.  Chairman Ted Haddad noted that they've always deferred to members who want a site visit.  He cautioned that if the motion went forward, they ran the risk of a vote in opposition to the changes, blocking the City's planned school. 

Melillo dug in his heels, saying a site visit was useful but not necessary.  He then questioned if Haddad was asking him to withdraw the motion, or table it until the next meeting.  Haddad responded that they were walking a tightrope.  With the hearing closed, anything that members saw during the site visit could not be entered into the record. 

The Commission voted to rescind the earlier vote, and supported keeping the public hearing open. The city’s Planning Commission previously unanimously approved the Summit’s master plan changes.

DAWS benefits from Betty White Challenge, will name kennel for late star

The late Betty White was a tireless lifetime advocate for animals.  On Monday, fans donated to animal welfare charities and shelters as part of what’s been dubbed the #BettyWhiteChallenge.  The idea was to donate $5 to a local animal rescue organization in White’s name on what would have been her 100th birthday.  Danbury Animal Welfare Society, DAWS, raised over $20,000.  Over 500 donors, more than Giving Tuesday or any other giving marathons in DAWS history, contributed.  The average gift was around $40.  As a result, DAWS plans to name a new kennel after Betty White in their renovated and modern state of the art shelter.  Until January 31st, DAWS says all adult dog and cat adoptions are $100 off to help clear the shelter as they get ready for their renovation.

Brookfield Board of Finance seeks candidates for open position

The Brookfield Board of Finance is currently seeking candidates for an open position.  This is open to Brookfield Republicans.  Those interested and eligible are asked to submit a resume and statement of interest to the Brookfield Board of Finance by January 38th to BOF@brookfieldct.gov. Interviews will take place February 1st and 2nd.

Water Witch Hose Fire warns of uptick in Lithium Ion battery fires

Water Witch Hose Fire of New Milford says over the last few months there has been an uptick in Lithium Ion battery fires. Fire officials say these batteries store a large amount of energy in a small amount of space and with new technology comes new dangers.  They can overheat, catch fire, or explode.  Water Witch Hose reminded residents to purchase and use devices that are listed by a qualified testing laboratory and follow manufacturer instructions. 

Putnam County Executive touting changes to Tilly Foster Farm

Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell is touting changes to Tilly Foster Farm and Educational Institute since the County took over management in 2014.  The once money-losing 199 acres, with very little public access, now offers farm-to-table, local, sustainable goods and programs.  The Putnam County Economic Development Corporation is working to bring film and television production to the site. The Putnam County Tourism office relocated to farm in June. To educate the next generation in sustainable practices, the county has partnered with Putnam-Northern Westchester BOCES, creating an Animal Care program for high school students, and building a commercial kitchen that students in the Culinary Arts Program use.

Danbury Zoning Commission tries unsuccessfully to overturn vote on Chairman

Some members of the Danbury Zoning Commission tried unsuccessfully last week to overturn the vote on who to be Chairman.  At the first meeting of their new term in December, members voted 6 to 2 vote to have Democrat Ted Haddad continue in his role as chairman. Republican Commission member Rob Melillo, the other nominee for Chairman, made the move to rescind the vote. 

The motion failed 6 to 5. 

After the November municipal elections, Republicans gained a 6-3 majority on the Zoning Commission, flipping the group from a Democratic 5-4 majority.

Haddad called it a shameful and disgraceful stunt.  He blamed party leadership for trying to embarrass those who crossed the aisle.  He also called it filthy, noting that it was never done before in the City's history adding that he believed the effort was to rub the noses of those who crossed the aisle into the way they voted last time. 

Several Republican members then spoke up and said they weren't told to try to overturn the vote or change their vote. 

Haddad says there was a quorum, no dispute and everything was done properly.  Initially he commended Melillo for switching his vote at the December meeting.  But then Melillo said he only did it because, under Robert's Rules of Order, a person who votes on prevailing side has the right to make a motion to reconsider.  He says it was a parliamentary procedure and note a vote in acclamation. 

After a tied vote, they left the election of their Vice Chair to the January meeting.  On a vote of 6 to 3, members selected Candace Fay as Vice Chair.  She was a Democrat, but ran as a Republican in the last election.

Nuvance COVID-19 patients less sick, staff grows tired

Nuvance Health employees have been working night and day under extraordinary circumstances because of the influx of COVID-19 patients.  Nuvance President and CEO Dr. John Murphy notes that they're not quiet as sick as in the first wave.  Fewer patients are going to the ICU and being ventilated in this wave, but there are still a lot of patients coming in to hospitals with COVID. 

Murphy says they're trying to augment the staff to alleviate that pressure, but it's not unique to Nuvance or even to health care, the staff shortages are seen in most industries.  Hundreds of Nuvance employees are out with COVID-19.  Murphy says the workers are tired and frustrated, and there's a sense of exhaustion on when this will end. 

Murphy says masking is important and does make a difference.  But he added that if someone is not feeling well, staying home and not circulating at work or school is also an important strategy. 

Meanwhile the state reported that the number of patients in Connecticut hospitals with lab confirmed COVID fell over the weekend by 38.  There are little more than 1800 patients total statewide.  Of that total, 67.5% are not fully vaccinated.  The daily COVID test positivity rate also dipped yesterday since Friday to about 17-percent.  Nearly 16,000 positive case were detected out of almost 93,000 tests. State health officials cautioned that the test positivity rate dipping could be because more people are using at home rapid tests, which aren't reported. 

Comment period opens in Danbury on Community Development Block Grants

The public comment period has opened on the City of Danbury's plan to distribute Community Development Block Grants.  A plan is required to be submitted to the Department of Housing and Urban Development each year to  identify and prioritize its community development needs and resources and provide information on the activities that will be funded by HUD's annual allocation of CDBG dollars. 

One public hearing has been held on the plan and the next is scheduled for February 8th at 7pm in Danbury City Hall Conference Room 3C.  

An overview of the City's Five-Year Consolidated Plan will be presented highlighting the activities that are proposed as priority needs for CDBG funding for the 2021 Program period. This will be followed by a presentation of proposed funding activities for the 2021 CDBG program year, from August 1, 2021 to July 31, 2022.  Masks will be required and social distancing will be observed. 

The 30-day comment period for public input/comment is open through February 8th at cdbg@danbury-ct.gov, or mailed to: David St.Hilaire, Director of Finance, 155 Deer Hill Ave, Danbury, CT 06810. All comments received will be summarized with responses in the final submission to HUD.

 Total funding available for 2021 CDBG projects is $664,859.

 Proposed activities for 2021 include the following:

1) ARC homeless case management/referral - $18,000

2) LEAD financial literacy and skills building program - $10,000

3) Danbury Youth Services truancy case management - $10,000

 4) TBICO case management for families at risk of homelessness - $10,000

5) United Way of Western CT enrichment program for children in eligible families - $10,000

6) Amos House security improvements at Rocky Glen Road $12,000

7) Danbury War Memorial ADA improvements at emergency shelter - $71,000

8) Apex Community Care group residence renovations - $28,500

9) City of Danbury Department of Engineering public facilities and infrastructure activities to be identified - $270,359

10) General Administration - $100,000

11) Section 108 loan repayment - $125,000

Local lawmakers call for answers into tree clearing at state park

Two local lawmakers are calling for documents in connection with ongoing widespread hazard tree removal at Housatonic Meadows State Park and Housatonic Meadows Campground.  Representative Steve Harding and Senator Craig Miner are ranking members of the legislature's Environment Committee.  They want the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection or its contractors to explain why this high-volume hazard tree removal began without any public notice, stakeholder outreach or public hearing.  DEEP has since paused its hazard tree removal, and agreed to hold a virtual public hearing.  DEEP officials say they intend to proceed with the hazard tree removals prior to the hearing.  Miner says they have no plan for replanting, bank stabilization, damage mitigation to endangered species in the area and no plan to mitigate damage and disruption in the area. 

OSHA finds dozens of violations at Watertown metal fabrication company

An OSHA investigation has been completed into a Watertown metal fabrication company.  An employee of PM Engineered Solutions Inc. was electrocuted on July 14th while repairing a portable water heater.  OHSA found that the company lacked safeguards to protect employees against electrocution, as well as mechanical, chemical, fall and other electrical hazards.  Area Director Dale Varney says this employee lost his life due to the employer's failure to implement required energy control procedures. OSHA cited the company for 40 serious and 8 other-than-serious violations of workplace safety and health standards found during an inspection of the facility. PM Engineered Solutions faces a total of 236-thousand-201 dollars in proposed penalties.

Cornell Cooperative Extension moving its operations at Tilly Foster Farm

Cornell Cooperative Extension will be moving its operations at Tilly Foster Farm in Putnam County.  The organization is renovating the building at no cost to the county and will host is 4-H Youth, Master Gardener and other community programs there. It also helped secure a grant for a creamery and plans to use the commercial kitchen to jar vegetables and honey.  The group’s Pollinator Pathway at the farm has already helped keep the county blooming, and it has increased production in the newly expanded garden by 40 percent. That boost enabled the county to open a farm stand to the public this year, in addition to providing produce to the Tilly’s Table restaurant and to the lunch program at the county’s Office for Senior Resources.  The farm-to-market restaurant on the property, also operates an event space in the barn for weddings, bridal showers and other occasions.  All but two Saturdays in 2022 are already booked.

Newtown among towns in class action suit against Opioid manufacturers

Newtown was among the towns that signed onto a class action suit against the Opioid manufacturers and distributors in 2017.  Newtown received pro bono representation.  Globally, the settlement can be up to tens of billions, but First Selectman Dan Rosenthal recently told the Board of Selectmen and Legislative Council that it's unclear how much each municipality will receive.  Each town has to sign off on the settlement.  Newtown plans to direct the funds to drug education. Among the organizations that could benefit include, but are not limited to, Newtown Youth and Family Services, the Parent Connection and the Social Services Department.

SEMA4 moves COVID-19 testing site in Danbury back to Pat Waldron Building

SEMA4 has moved its COVID-19 testing site in Danbury back to the Pat Waldron Building on Memorial Drive.  Hours during the week are 3pm to 7pm.  Weekend hours are from 9am to 3pm.  SEMA4 has different hours listed on their website, as of Monday morning.

The state-sponsored test site had been operating this month at WestConn's Westside campus, but the Spring semester starts Wednesday and students will be back on campus. 

SEMA4 is only running testing at 16 of 24 state-sponsored sites through the end of the month.  State officials are still working to replace the lab company, but don’t anticipate any sites shutting down.  Stamford-based Sema4 is returning its focus to genomic testing, but handled about two-thirds of some 25,000 tests that the state-run sites have conducted in recent weeks.

In Kent, First Selectman Jean Speck says the next-closest testing location is a 40-minute drive away or more.  Demand for testing at the Kent Transfer Station has roughly quadrupled during the omicron surge, prompting a decision to extend the site’s hours.

Bethel Police investigating incident at CVS

The Bethel Police Department is attempting to identify a suspect and vehicle in relation to an incident that occurred at the CVS on Durant Avenue on January 4th.  Photos of the man and the vehicle involved have been posted to the Bethel Police Department Facebook page.  Anyone with information is asked to contact Officer Lavallee at 203-744-7900 Ext 603.

Nearly $200 of beer stolen from Southbury grocery store

The Southbury Police Department is investigating a shoplifting incident that occurred on Thursday.  A woman is accused of stealing 173-dollars worth of beer from ShopRite. Southbury Police say the suspect was also seen getting into a white Acura SUV with a New York license plate. Anyone with information or a possible identity of the suspect is asked to contact Officer Markette at 203-264-5912. All calls will be kept confidential upon request.

Redding ends Christmas tree pick ups

The Town of Redding Christmas tree pick up has ended. If any resident still has a tree, it can be dropped off at the Transfer Station during regular business hours.  But as of Friday, the brush pile was temporarily closed due to the wood and brush processing.  Drop off will resume after the work has been completed.  The Redding Transfer Station is closed today in observance of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Day.

Danbury Board of Ed seeks candidate to fill vacancy

The Danbury Board of Education is accepting applications to fill a vacancy. Joe Britton, a member of the Democratic Party, resigned so he could focus on his new role as a City Councilman.  Danbury residents interested in applying for this vacancy should send a letter of application to the Secretary of the Danbury Board of Education.  The term of office will extend until the next biennial municipal election in November 2023. Residents must be at least 18 years old and a United States citizen.  Applications will be accepted until January 29th.

Stubborn fire destroys former restaurant in Newtown

A stubborn fire has destroyed a closed restaurant in Newtown.  The Friday morning fire at 130 Mt Pleasant Road took more than four hours to extinguish.  The fire at the former McGuire’s Ale House was first reported around 9:30am.  All five of Newtown’s volunteer fire companies, Newtown police officers, and Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps responded, along with multiple mutual aid companies. Two portable ponds were set up to provide water to the scene.  An excavator was brought in to pull down sections that had not collapsed during the fire.  No injuries were reported. Stony Hill Volunteer Fire Company was among those responding with mutual aid, first to help with the water supply and then to provide station coverage at Dodgingtown's firehouse.  A suction hose was used to pull water from a pond because extra water was needed. Stony Hill noted that cold days call for extra manpower at fire scenes, and in the middle of a work day it is even more important to call on neighboring departments to get the job done. 

Two New Haven residents arrested for alleged car theft in Bethel

Two New Haven residents have been arrested in connection with a car theft in Bethel.  In the early morning hours Wednesday, Bethel Police saw several suspicious motor vehicles in the area of Old Hawleyville Road and Route 302 including a vehicle registered out of New Haven.  They also saw a moving violation, and tried to stop the New Haven vehicle, but the operator took off at a high rate of speed. 

A short pursuit was called off. 

Later in the shift, Bethel Police received a report of a stolen vehicle on Route 302 in the area of Old Hawleyville. Later in the day, there was a stolen motor vehicle complaint on Old Hawleyville Road.  Both were left unlocked with their keys inside. 

The first stolen car was  later recovered by officers of the New Haven Police Department who arrested 21-year old Tyrone Felton and 19-year old Tivon Edwards. 

The other stolen vehicle was recovered in New Castle, New York. Bethel Detectives recognized the suspect seen in video surveillance footage leaving from the vehicle as a New Haven juvenile with a history of motor vehicle thefts. That investigation is still ongoing; however an arrest is anticipated.

Residents are being urged to lock their vehicles and keep their keys in their homes.

Brookfield Police Department names new Chief

The Brookfield Police Department has named their new Chief.  Major John Puglisi will be promoted to the role and take the helm on February 1st. 

Chief James Purcell is retiring after about five years leading the agency and 38 years on the force.  Before learning that Purcell was retiring, Puglisi started applying to chief positions in other municipalities, but then things moved quickly in Brookfield.  The Police Commission and Board of Selectman have endorsed his appointment. 

His salary has not yet been finalized. 

Puglisi has spent his entire career with the Brookfield Police Department, starting in 1988.  Over the years he's served as emergency services commander and scuba team commander.  For more than 5 years, Puglisi has also been the chief of the Lake Lillinonah Authority Marine Patrol.

Newtown sets up next round of at home COVID-19 test kit distributions

Newtown is getting ready for its next round of at home COVID-19 test kit distributions.  The purpose is to reduce the spread of the Omicron variant and to supplement existing testing.  The primary focus is on people who are symptomatic or who are a close contact to a case.

Test kits are also being provided to school districts. 

Newtown residents need to sign up for the municipal distribution via a link on the town's website on the Health District webpage, which went live over the weekend.  Each household can receive one kit, and those who already received one previously, is asked not sign up again. 

With a confirmed appointment, test kits will be distributed tomorrow at the Municipal Center, Wednesday and Thursday at the Community Center/Senior Center as a drive thru.  This distribution is focused on seniors and will have communication for sign-up directed to seniors.  Friday's distribution will be at the Municipal Center and Saturday at Reed School as a drive thru.  

Proof of residency and confirmed appointment will be required.

Carmel COVID-19 test site closed today

As a result of the inclement weather, Putnam County will be closing both COVID-19 Testing Sites in Carmel and Philipstown today.  County Executive MaryEllen Odell says this being a holiday weekend, will allow many people to stay home rather than braving the roads where the combination of snow, ice and rain will make travel extremely difficult.  She asked residents to check on vulnerable neighbors and family members.  Should it be needed, the Knights of Columbus Hall on Fair Street in Carmel is prepared to open as a warming center. 

Trumbull man arrested on sex assault charge in Newtown

A 33-year old Trumbull man has been arrested by Newtown Police on a Sexual Assault charge.  After a 5 month long investigation into a reported sexual assault, Shawn Santoro was charged Friday.  The department did not provide any other details about the case.  Santoro was released on a 100-thousand dollar bond and is due in Danbury Superior Court on February 1st.

Danbury residents want City to address walkability, transportation

Walkability and transportation issues were among the biggest to come up during a public outreach session into Danbury's next plan of conservation and development. Consultant Fransisco Gomes says one resident suggested a sidewalk connection between the Danbury Mall and Main Street.  City Council Minority Leader  Paul Rotello, whose Ward includes Park Avenue, says right now there is no continuous sidewalk on that street, but that would allow people to walk the two miles from the downtown corridor to the mall. Other suggestions from the public included more rail service, revitalizing downtown and adding new businesses to attract younger residents.  The group will conduct three focus group meetings in late January.  

Yellow ribbons removed from town green amid speech dispute

LITCHFIELD, Conn. (AP) — A symbol of support for U.S. troops has become the centerpiece of a contentious free-speech debate in this small town in the hills of northwestern Connecticut.

Yellow ribbons had adorned trees on the historic Litchfield Town Green since the start of the U.S. war in Iraq in 2003, placed there by families with relatives serving overseas in the military.

But the five remaining ribbons were taken down quietly Thursday by a local official enforcing an ordinance banning placards and other postings on the green, which dates to the early 1700s. The concern? Allowing the ribbons opens the door to any displays of free speech, no matter how hateful or offensive it might be.

Controversy over the ribbons has flared occasionally over the years and recently remerged in the Borough of Litchfield. In December, acting Warden Gayle Carr and the board of burgesses voted to renew enforcement of the ordinance. Seventeen people in the audience spoke in opposition to removing the ribbons at the December meeting, and none spoke in favor, according to borough records.

Val Caron, a retired electrician whose son is in the Air Force, had been tending the ribbons with his wife for more than a decade. He said he is considering legal action to put the ribbons back up.

“What they did is they slapped everybody in the military right in the face,” Caron said. “There’s a lot of people that are very upset. ... This is not over.”

Carr removed the ribbons late Thursday morning, stuffing them into a backpack as she walked her dog on a nearly deserted town green.

“When it comes to a public space like that, if you allow some speech you have to allow all speech,” Carr said in a phone interview. “But under the (borough) code we are allowed to say no speech, and that doesn’t discriminate against anybody.”

Carr added military families can still hold signs, march or hold vigils on the green — they just can’t express themselves “in the form of attaching placards, and ribbons and signs to things.”

The tradition of displaying yellow ribbons to honor military members across the country dates back generations. Free speech controversies have occasionally cropped up, usually involving bans on political postings on public land.

In 2004, for example, the National Park Service removed yellow ribbons welcoming soldiers home from Iraq from utility poles near the Herbert Hoover National Historic Site in Iowa, saying they were a political statement.

In 2009, a different set of Litchfield burgesses banned ribbons from the town green trees, citing the potential for a proliferation of free speech displays as well as possible tree damage. After a groundswell of opposition and national news coverage, the officials agreed in 2010 to allow five yellow ribbons — one honoring for each military branch — on the green.

Two years later, borough officials removed four of the five ribbons. An uproar of opposition arose again, and burgesses relented and allowed the five ribbons.

People interviewed near the Litchfield Town Green on Thursday weighed in on the yellow ribbons debate.

“I would like to see less focus on the ribbons and more focus on helping veterans,” said Jeff Russak, who owns Lawrence Jeffrey Estate Jewelers across the street from the green and who grew up in a family with many military members. “I’m all for putting up a yellow ribbon. You can put them up in your yard.”

Longtime borough resident Bibby Veerman, 77, said she agreed with the decision to remove the ribbons. She said the ribbons were meant to be removed when service members returned home.

“Put them up somewhere else,” she said. “I don’t think it has to be a major issue.”

Area Fire Departments warn of illegal use of logo in scam t-shirt sales

Bethel and Brookfield Fire Departments have been alerted about a company called Trenddy Tee, also going by the name GearLaunch, soliciting sales of t-shirt featuring the fire departments patches.  This is an un-authorized usage of the logo, something also happening with other area departments without permission.  The Bethel and Brookfield Fire Departments have online stores of shirts we have designed and sold for which proceeds benefit the departments and their charitable causes.  Many other departments operate the same way.  Bethel also recommended supporting the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation to truly support the American Fire Service.

Conn. Department of Public Health releases COVID-19 data for Greater Danbury area

The state department of Public Health is reporting COVID-19 case rates for the Greater Danbury area ranging from 143 to 241 per 100-thousand population, up from a range last week of 109 to 173 per 100-thousand population. The lowest case rate is in Redding and the highest is in Danbury, based on population. 

The rates are:

Redding 143.4

Ridgefield 164.8

New Fairfield 185.8

New Milford 187.9

Newtown 190.5

Bethel 217.5

Brookfield 222.6

Danbury 241.8

 

COVID-19 infection rates for the Greater Danbury area range from 22.5 to 31.9 percent, up from a range of 16.8 percent to 23.6 percent.  The lowest test positivity is in Ridgefield and the highest is in New Fairfield.  The rates are:

Ridgefield 22.5 percent

Newtown 23.5 percent

New Milford 25.4 percent 

Brookfield 29.2 percent 

Bethel 29.4 percent

Redding 26.1 percent

Danbury 34.3 percent 

New Fairfield 31.9 percent 

According to the latest COVID-19 data from the state Department of Public Health, Danbury reported 2,867 cases in the last two weeks.  Bethel has had 603 cases, there were 529 COVID cases in Brookfield, and New Fairfield reported 361.  There were 705 COVID cases in New Milford, 744 in Newtown, Redding reported 183 cases in the last two weeks while Ridgefield had 576. 

Sandy Hook families defamation suit moving forward

A Connecticut Superior Court Judge has granted some Sandy Hook families a motion to subpoena Facebook in the next phase of their defamation suit against conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.  The families want to know if the social media site was used to amplify his claim that the shooting on 12-14 was a hoax, but Facebook deactivated Jones’ 14 accounts in 2018.  His lawyers claimed not to have access to the data and believe it cannot be used to inform a jury as to how any damages could be calculated.

One of New Fairfield's original full time police officers has passed away

One of New Fairfield's original full time police officers has passed away.  George Devine began his career as a Bethel Police Officer and came to New Fairfield full time in 1977.  He served until 1988, when he was injured in the line of duty at a large fight at a New Fairfield high school basketball game. Devine is survived by his two sons and numerous grandchildren.

Structure fire reported in Newtown

A structure fire in Newtown this morning drew a response from all five of the town's volunteer companies, along with mutual aid from Bethel.  The fire at the intersection of Mount Pleasant and Hawleyville Roads was reported around 9:30am at the former Mcguire's Ale House.  Mount Pleasant and additional roads in the area were being closed.  Fire officials say it's a deep seated fire and heavy equipment was called to the scene for the prolonged operation.

Delayed Candlewood Lake winter drawdown now underway

The winter drawdown of Candlewood Lake started yesterday.  This was delayed earlier this month due to an unexpected issue at the Rocky River Pumped Hydro Station.  FirstLight Power says the Pump Station is back online.  What would normally be a very short-term maintenance repair stretched into a much longer outage due to supply chain delays and COVID-related staffing shortages with vendors. 

Brookfield, New Milford school districts pick up next round of masks, COVID-19 test kits

New Milford School District officials have picked up the next allocation of rapid COVID-19 Self-Test Kits and Masks for the schools  New Milford Schools are receiving 28 cases of iHealth kits, with 90 kits per case, and 2,650 masks. Distribution guidelines remain unchanged from the first allocation from the state.

N95 Face Masks allocated to municipalities by the State are now available for pick up by Brookfield residents at Town Hall, the Senior Center, the Park & Recreation Department, Police Department, and Brookfield Library.  The Brookfield School District is picking up Phase 2 allocation of COVID self-test kits and N95 Masks for staff from the state depot today. 

The Brookfield schools also remain supplied with the initial allotment from the Phase I test kits distribution.

Danbury School District hires chief strategy and operations officer

A new administrator has been hired for the Danbury Public School District.  Instead of having an assistant superintendent, Danbury will have a chief strategy and operations officer, a chief of schools K-5, and a chief of schools 6-12.  Michael Seelig was named to the operations role at this week's Board of Education meeting.  The former teacher who has worked in K-12 schools in California and higher education with the City University of New York, will oversee several information technology, facilities, registration, and family and community engagement.  The combined cost for the three new new positions will be $500,000, replacing three unfilled positions in the budget

Bethel approves funding to expand Clarke Park

The Bethel Board of Finance has approved an allocation of General Fund money for the expansion of Clarke Business Park.  The state Bond Commission approved a $635,000 grant-in-aid for Bethel last year.  The overall project is estimated at $1.5 million.  The expansion is now possible with the 2016 completion of the Eureka Lake water storage tank, which brought needed fire suppression and supply to the area.  Plans call for adding four commercial lots, totaling 13.2 acres, to Trowbridge Drive and the cul-de-sac on the southern edge of the park.

New Fairfield offers sand-salt mix to residents ahead of winter storm

New Fairfield officials are offering a reminder to residents of winter weather services offered by Public Works.  In New Fairfield a sand-salt mixture is available at the Drop Off Center. Residents may fill two 5 gallon buckets with sand per storm.

The Drop Off Center is open on Saturdays and Tuesdays 8am to 3:45pm and Thursdays 2pm to 5.  Residents need to bring their own buckets and shovel. 

Residents are asked to remove cars parked on town roads during a storm so plows can efficiently clear the roads. Mailboxes and posts that receive direct contact from snow removal equipment will be replaced with a standard mailbox and post.  After calling the Public Works Department, their Superintendent will inspect the damage and replace the mailbox accordingly.

School bus shortages persist in New Milford

 

The New Milford Public School District is providing an update on bus staffing shortages.  The district's website will be updated on current bus runs that have issues daily as needed at 5:30am for the morning runs and 11am for the afternoon bus runs, and then again at 7:30pm for any new changes for the next day. 

All-Star Transportation has worked with New Milford to offer an option for buses that cannot run day by day throughout the rest of this school year.  Starting Tuesday, All-Star is creating a second bus run for the middle and high school for pick up between 8:45 AM and 9:15 AM at their normal bus stop, or between 9:50 AM and 10:30 AM if it is going to the lower grade schools.  Afternoon pick ups will be between 3:45 and 4 or 4:30 and 4:45 respectively. 

Parents choosing to pick their child up in the afternoon is asked to contact the school to notify them.  Students  will not be marked tardy if they are on the late morning runs.  Superintendent Alisha Di Corpo cautioned that this service is not available if schools are delayed or dismissed early.

Bethel officials sign off on purchase of portable radios for Fire Department

The Bethel Emergency Management Director is proposing the town purchase portable radios for the Fire Department.  The Board of Selectmen recommended that the Board of Finance approve up to $400,000 for the 74 handheld radios.   That panel signed off on the plan this week. 

This would be enough to cover both Bethel and Stony Hill Volunteer Fire companies and a few for the Fire Marshal's Office. The current emergency communication devices are about 15 years old.  There were two bids and the Fire Commission recommended going with Motorola.  There's a $15,000 difference between the two bids, but they decided to go with the higher once since it's a vendor they've been using.  The other brand is primarily for military use and has less use among the fire service. 

There were also some concerns about the function of the mayday button and having to physically reset it in order to communicare on that channel.  The new radios will be able to withstand higher temperatures, have a channel selector, and an emergency button. 

Emergency Management Director Tom Galliford says he applied to FEMA for their Assistance to Firefighter grant three times and has been denied all three times.  The first was because the age of the radios were not old enough.  The second and third times were because the scoring didn't add up enough to show financial need. 

New photos released of New Milford bank robbery suspect

New photos have been released by the New Milford Police Department as they investigate a bank robbery that occurred earlier this month.  Webster Bank on Main Street was robbed in the afternoon on January 5th.  The suspect was described as a white male, approximately 6-foot-2 with a thin build.  The man was wearing a dark colored jacket, black gloves, sunglasses, a dark colored hat and a mask.  The robbery suspect fled the scene on a bicycle.  Anyone with any information is encouraged to contact New Milford Police Officer Ryan at 860-355-3133.  The Connecticut Bankers Association is offering a 500-dollar reward for any information leading to the arrest of the robbery suspect.

4 Southbury clerks sold tobacco products to underage patrons

Unannounced compliance inspections have been held at Southbury establishments that sell tobacco products  or electronic cigarettes.  Officers worked with the state Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services Tobacco Prevention and Enforcement Program on Wednesday. 

17 compliance checks were conducted and 4 were found non-compliant.  The offending clerks at Citgo / Wheels, Kiran Mart and Southford Package Store all on Southford Road and the Mobil / Southbury Convenience at Exit 16 were issued a first time infraction of $300.  13 retailers were found to be compliant. 

Retailers are required by state law to inspect the photo ID of anyone who appears under the age of 30 before selling a tobacco product or electronic cigarette. 

New Fairfield firefighters warn of fundraising scam

New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department has been alerted to text messages have been circulating recently. The department is not currently selling T shirts, and will never solicit via text.  Fire Company A called it a scam and encouraged residents not to purchase anything through the fraudulent text messages.  This is a statewide issue, not sponsored by local fire departments and they do not benefit from the it.  These items are not legitimate and officials say there is a possibility that personal information may be stolen.

Congresswoman tests positive for COVID-19

5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes has tested positive for COVID-19.  She took a routine test before travelling and is not experiencing symptoms.  Hayes is vaccinated and has received a booster, but her doctor has advised her to quarantine.  Hayes also tested positive for COVID-19 in September 2020. At that time, she said she was experiencing respiratory symptoms.

New Milford updates turn around time for COVID-19 test results

New Milford Health Director Lisa Morrissey says there have been another 53 COVID-19 cases reported to the state Department of Public Health since Tuesday.  Vaccine clinics at Pettibone Community Center are fully booked through this month.  No dates for next month have been finalized at this point. 

As of the last report on January 6th, nearly 81-percent of New Milford residents had received at least one dose of a vaccine and 72.4 percent of residents were fully vaccinated. 

COVID-19 testing for New Milford and Washington residents at Pettibone Community Center is by appointment only.  Turn around time for results is about 72 hours, but officials caution this is for tests taken after January 2nd.  Results prior to January 2nd may vary in how long they take to process.

Danbury Senior Center to distribute at-home COVID-9 test kits

 

Danbury seniors have another opportunity to pick up a free at-home COVID-19 test kit.  Elmwood Hall Senior Center has 500 kits to be be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis from 9 am to 2pm today and tomorrow, or until supplies last. Kits are available for Danbury residents 60 and over. Residents must show ID.  The center distributed more than 600 kits last week.  Those who are unable to access transportation to the Senior Center may call 203-797-4686 to schedule delivery.

Mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics in Kent today

Mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics are being held in Kent today.  Both are being held at the Kent School, but there will be a separate area for pediatric vaccinations of kids 5 to 11.  The Pfizer dose with emergency use authorization is about half that of the adult dose.  All brands of vaccines will be available for those 18 and older, with Pfizer for youths 12 to 18.  The clinic is 2pm to 6pm.

American Red Cross issues appeal for blood donors

Hospitals are still seeing accident victims, cancer patients, those with blood disorders like sickle cell disease, and individuals who are seriously ill who all need blood transfusions. The Red Cross has issued an appeal for blood donors.  There are several clinics for people to help ease the crisis in the Greater Danbury area.  A blood drive is being held at New Fairfield Congregational Church tomorrow from 1pm until 6pm.  A blood drive is scheduled for Monday, weather permitting, at the Portuguese Cultural Center on Sand Pit Road in Danbury from 11am to 4pm.  VFW New Milford is hosting a blood drive at their Avery Road facility on Wednesday from 1pm to 6pm.

Man sustains possible life threatening injuries in Brookfield rollover crash

A 51-year old Southbury man sustained serious, possible life threatening injuries in a rollover accident in Brookfield early this morning.  The pickup truck was headed north on Route 7 shortly before 3am when it ran off the roadway for an unknown reason. 

State Police say the vehicle struck the guardrail in the median, veered across the roadway, ran into the shoulder and up an embankment.

(Photo: BVFD)

Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company responded to the area just north of exit 12, the old Four Corners area, on initial reports from callers of a tractor trailer accident southbound. As State Police and Brookfield Police arrived, it was updated as a single pick up truck rollover with the driver still in the vehicle northbound.  Firefighters and Police were able to remove the person from the vehicle.

He was transported to Danbury Hospital.

The case remains under investigation. Anyone who may have witnessed the accident is asked to contact Trooper Thomas #1078 at Troop A - Southbury at 203-267-2200.

New Milford officials upset over new voting precinct lines in state redistricting

When the state Reapportionment Commission redrew legislative districts, they also changed some of the local voting lines.  The New Milford registrars gave a presentation to the Town Council this week about changes coming to New Milford, including that a small portion in the southeast corner is moving into the 69th House District. 

Three state Representatives will now advocate in Hartford for the town. 

The Commission also changed the 108th House District, making New Milford's portion longer and thinner, which prompted Mayor Pete Bass to call the redistricting egregious and wrong.  Gaylordsville residents will have to make a more than 10 mile trek down Route 7, which could take about half an hour, in order to get to their polling place. 

Democratic registrar Marcel Grenier says there is now a new voting district, District 8, which was formed from portions of Districts 7, 2 and 1.  Republican registrar John Gaiser they're considering a polling place at Walnut Hill Community Church on Dorwin Hill Road. 

Grenier noted that no town official was consulted on the change and said state officials should have let the registrars or the towns have input when making the decision as to how to redistrict precincts. The Town Council and Bass plan to write a letter to the legislature, governor and Secretary of State Denise Merrill about their displeasure of the redistricting and how it’s going to affect residents.

Danbury resident Ronnie Spector, '60s icon who sang 'Be My Baby,' dies at 78

NEW YORK (AP) — Ronnie Spector, the cat-eyed, bee-hived rock ‘n’ roll siren who sang such 1960s hits as “Be My Baby,” “Baby I Love You” and “Walking in the Rain” as the leader of the girl group The Ronettes, has died. She was 78.

Spector died Wednesday after a brief battle with cancer, her family said. “Ronnie lived her life with a twinkle in her eye, a spunky attitude, a wicked sense of humor and a smile on her face. She was filled with love and gratitude,” a statement said. No other details were revealed.

Spector, alongside her sister Estelle Bennett and cousin Nedra Talley, scored hits with pop masterpieces like “Baby, I Love You,” “Walking in the Rain,” “I Can Hear Music” and “Be My Baby,” which was co-written by Spector, Jeff Barry and Ellie Greenwich.

Spector, born Veronica Bennett, and her multiracial bandmates grew up in the Washington Heights area of Manhattan. They began singing and dancing in clubs as Ronnie and the Relatives, becoming noteworthy for their liberal use of eyeliner and mascara.

In March 1963, Estelle Bennett managed to arrange an audition in front of Phil Spector, known for his big, brass-and-drum style dubbed the “wall of sound.” They were signed to Philles Records in 1963. After being signed, they sang backup for other acts until Spector had the group record “Be My Baby” and “Baby I Love You.”

The group’s debut album, “Presenting the Fabulous Ronettes Featuring Veronica,” was released in 1964. Five of its 12 tracks had made it to the U.S. Billboard charts.

After touring Germany in 1967, the Ronettes broke up. Spector married Ronnie in 1968. Her 1990 autobiography “Be My Baby: How I Survived Mascara, Miniskirts And Madness” tells an unhappy story of abuse.  He surprised her by adopting twins, and kept her captive in their Beverly Hills mansion, taking her shoes to keep her from leaving. That did not stop her from running away barefoot to get away from him.

The couple divorced in 1974. Phil Spector was sent to prison in 2009 for the murder of actress Lana Clarkson and died in 2021.

When the Ronettes were inducted in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Keith Richards of The Rolling Stones remembered opening for the trio in England in the mid-1960s. “They could sing all their way right through a wall of sound,” Richards said. “They didn’t need anything. They touched my heart right there and then and they touch it still.”

After the Ronettes broke up, Spector continued to tour and make music, including “Take Me Home Tonight” with Eddie Money, recording Joel’s “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” with Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, and recording the 1999 EP “She Talks to Rainbows,” which included her first ever recording of “Don’t Worry Baby,” written for her by Brian Wilson.

In 2006, she released “Last of the Rock Stars,” her first album in 20 years and it featured appearances by the Raconteurs, Keith Richards, Patti Smith and the Raveonettes. In 2010 she released a doo-wop Christmas EP called “Ronnie Spector’s Best Christmas Ever” and in 2016 released “English Heart,” her covers of songs from Britain in the ’60s.

She is survived her husband, Jonathan Greenfield, and two sons, Jason and Austin.

Two COVID-19 vaccine clinics scheduled in Newtown

Two free COVID-19 vaccination opportunities have been scheduled in Newtown on Friday.  The Newtown Health District clinic at the Newtown Community Center is from 10 am to 2 pm.  Only the Moderna vaccine will be available and it has emergency use authorization for people age 18 and older.  The clinic is by appointment only, and reservations for a time slot can be made on the town of Newtown's website under the health district's page.  A mobile walk-in clinic is being held at NYA Sports and Fitness from 11 am to 4 pm on Friday.  This clinic will have all three brands of vaccine available and is for individuals age 12 and up.

Kent to distribute masks, at-home test kits today

The town of Kent has scheduled the a distribution event today for N95 masks and a limited number of at-home COVID-19 test kits.  The drive-through distribution will take place at Kent Town Hall from 4pm to 6.  The allocation for the N95 masks is two per resident. They are intended for adult use only.  One at-home kit per vehicle will be distributed on a first-come, first served basis. As with the first allocation, the priority for these kits is residents who are symptomatic and/or may have had recent exposure.  Proof of residency is required at time of pickup.  Kent has about 6,000 masks to distribute.

Environmental Impact hearing held on plans for car dealership near Airport

The Danbury Environmental Impact Commission has held a hearing on plans by a car dealer to build near Danbury Municipal Airport.  A Mercedes-Benz sales and service facility has been proposed for a construction storage yard between the airport and Route 7 at the northwest corner of Miry Brook and Sugar Hollow roads.  Curry Automotive is also seeking parking for 85 vehicles on the second-story roof.  The 2.5 acre site is near the environmentally sensitive Kissen Brook.  No direct discharges to wetlands are proposed.  Drainage and stormwater improvements are planned for the site.  A concrete building and shed on the propertywould be demolished, and a retaining wall would be constructed. A special exception is needed from the Planning Commission, a permit from the Zoning Commission, and approval from the Federal Aviation Administration.

Teachers wearing black, calling for increased COVID safety

Some teachers in the Greater Danbury area wore black yesterday as part of a show of support for safer and healthier schools.  NEA Danbury, the teachers’ union, called for promised N95 masks to be delivered, and the option to move to remote learning when needed.  Schools participating in the call to action also included Newtown and Brookfield. 

New Fairfield Superintendent Pat Cosentino says the local union told her they appreciate how administrators have communicated with them and wouldn't be participating.  She says if districts were allowed maybe three remote days for staffing issues or COVID surges, that could be helpful.  She notes that it's important to have kids in school for their social-emotional well being and their academic well being.

Some Connecticut educators wore red, saying they oppose the idea of going back to any online teaching and would like to see an easing of some COVID-19 protocols.

The wearing black demonstration was organized by a coalition of education labor groups, who asserted that a majority of their 60,000 members were unable to access testing or masks upon returning to school from the holiday break Jan. 3.

“I had schools that opened this week and still didn’t have masks, and that’s problematic,” Kate Dias, president of Connecticut Education Association, the state’s largest teacher’s union, said in a statement.

The unions held rallies outside of some schools Wednesday morning as children arrived.

Hayes introduces bill to help schools provide meals to children in afterschool care

5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes has introduced a bill to help schools provide meals to children in afterschool care through the National School Lunch Program.  Currently, eligible schools can serve snacks to students during afterschool programming, and participation is much lower than that of Lunch and Breakfast Programs.  Hayes, a former classroom teacher, says hungry children do not learn, whether its before, during or after school, kids need nutritious meals to thrive.  She says the Afterschool Meals Act is a critical way to close the hunger gap many children face between lunch at school one day and breakfast the next.  The bill would also provide grants prioritization to existing Child and Adult Care Food Program afterschool meal programs.

Putnam County Food System Coalition conducts food systems needs assessment

The Putnam County Food System Coalition conducted a food systems needs assessment last summer.  They've now created the Putnam County Food System Map.  Funded by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, the coalition is finding ways to address needs.

The use of food pantries has increased nationwide from 4.4 percent in 2019 to 6.7 percent in 2021, according to the USDA. Exacerbated by the pandemic and rising cost of living, 28-percent of Putnam County residents find it hard to make ends meet. 

Coalition partners surveyed more than 200 individuals accessing food pantries, soup kitchens, as well as homebound adults receiving supplemental food deliveries. Respondents reported that the most limiting factors to accessing the food they need included adequate income, reliable transportation to or, nearby grocery stores and food pantries.  While there are often stores within walking distance, many smaller, convenience stores do not accept SNAP/EBT food stamps. 

Survey respondents found it both difficult to get to nearly 40 farms, farm stands, farmers markets, and CSAs in Putnam or found the cost of produce too high.  The Coalition is developing funding to expand local food processing and storage. This will provide long term storage and refrigeration, extend the harvest by processing and distributing locally grown foods, offer stipends to food pantries to purchase local foods, and offset the cost of locally grown produce.

Connecticut Cultural Fund Operating Support Grants awarded

The Board of Directors of CT Humanities awarded significant funding through the Connecticut Cultural Fund Operating Support Grants program.  The money is intended to assist organizations recovering from the pandemic and aiding them to grow their ability to serve their communities and the public.  Grant funding ranged from $5,000 to $500,000 and any organization offering cultural, humanities and arts-based projects and activities for the public were eligible.

The following organizations received grant funding:

Bethel
The Cultural Alliance of Western Connecticut - $6,700 to support the Bethel-based FilmFest52 organization

Bethel Jazz - $5,500 

Circus Moves $6,400

Bethel Arts - $5,300

 

Brookfield
Brookfield Craft Center - $28,100 grant

Brookfield Theatre for the Arts - $9,100

Danbury
Danbury Museum - $19,700

Danbury Music Centre - $25,300

Danbury Railway Museum - $11,600

Musicals at Richter - $8,600

Richter Arts - $5,600

Society for Preservation & Encouragement of Barbershop Quartet Singing - $5,900

 

New Fairfield
New Fairfield Historical Society - $5,100

Preserve New Fairfield - $5,700

 

New Milford

Sherman Chamber Ensemble $9,800

 

Newtown
Edmond Town Hall — $39,400

NewArts — $15,200

Newtown Cultural Arts Commission — $7,400

Newtown Historical Society — $6,000

EverWonder Children’s Museum — $5,000


Redding
Redding Historical Society - $5,900


Ridgefield

Ridgefield Playhouse - $266,200

Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum — $112,300

ACT of CT — $106,800

Keeler Tavern Museum & History Center — $42,900

Ridgefield Symphony Orchestra — $22,600

Ridgefield Theater Barn — $19,500

Western Connecticut Youth Orchestra — $13,000

Ridgefield Historical Society — $12,800

Ridgefield Guild of Artists — $11,000

Thrown Stone Theatre Company — $10,700

The Ridgefield Chorale — $9,000

Camerata D’Amici — $6,200

Town of Ridgefield — $5,100

Sherman
Jewish Community Center- $10,200

The Sherman Playhouse - $8,100

Bethel Small Business Assistance Program accepting grant applications again

The Bethel Small Business Assistance Program is now accepting applications for a second round of grant funding.  The program was established to provide limited, one-time direct financial assistance to eligible Bethel small businesses that employ 25 or fewer employees and that have been adversely impacted by the COVID pandemic.

The Program is funded through the American Rescue Plan Act, and administered by the Town of Bethel’s Economic Development Commission.

The business must currently be in and have been in operation as of January 1, 2019.  Eligible businesses may apply for grants of up to $5,000. Funding is limited and it is anticipated that requests for assistance will be greater than funding on hand. The amount will be based upon the documented need of the business and available resources. Examples of use of funds includes, but not limited to payroll, mortgage interest, rent, utilities, operation expenses, public health measure compliance, and construction of an outdoor dining area. 

Applications will be accepted until February 1st.

Danbury School District to host budget forums

Danbury Schools are offering opportunities for families to give feedback on the budget.  The Danbury School's Community Budget Forums are being held on Tuesday the 18th and Thursday the 27th.  Both forums are at 7pm.  Superintendent Kevin Walston will be hosting small group community chats on Tuesday at 9am and Wednesday at 7pm.  The District is currently registering parents for the Parents Supporting Education Excellence program to learn how schools operate and decisions making.  The free 12-week course also covers what state and local policies govern schools, and how to become an effective change agent. 

Local lawmaker marks National Human Trafficking Awareness Day

New Fairfield State Representative Patrick Callahan has marked National Human Trafficking Awareness Day.  He supported legislation last session designed to fight human trafficking operations in Connecticut.  The law was crafted to crack down on coercion, holding bad actors accountable, and providing a pathway to recovery for victims.  In the upcoming session Callahan says he wants to deliver better safety measures to protect children from being groomed--the practice of enticing a minor online-- or trafficked.

Greater Danbury area towns open warming centers again

Greater Danbury area towns will have warming centers open once again today.  In Danbury, the warming center will be at 41 New Street, the City's homeless shelter.  The Center will be open 8am to 6pm. 

Several warming centers will be open in Newtown during normal operating hours including the Municipal Center, Community Center, Senior Center and the Library. 

The New Fairfield Library and Senior Center will be open for warming during regular hours. Masks are required in both buildings regardless of vaccination status. 

Brookfield senior center, library, and Greenknoll YMCA will be open during their normal operating hours.  Masks are required at each location. 

In New Milford, residents needing to get out of the cold can go to the Loretta Brickley Room at Town Hall from 8am to 5pm.

Brookfield COVID-19 test positivity rate 27th in ranking of Conn. municipalities

Brookfield, like all other Connecticut municipalities, has experienced a COVID-19 infection surge. For the two weeks ending January 1st, Brookfield had 413 cases reported to the Department of Public Health.  The test positivity rate is 21.8 percent making Brookfield 27th in ranking of towns in the State. Fairfield and New Haven Counties have the highest rates. 

Brookfield Health Director Dr Ray Sullivan suspects the numbers will remain high for another week or two before easing off.  He anticipated the spread being up because of gatherings for the holidays where there was close contact transmission. He urged residents to be up to date with shots, practice good hand hygiene, wear a mask, and social distance from others. 

The Brookfield Health Department Vaccine Booster Clinics offering Moderna and J & J are held in Town Hall on Tuesdays from 10am to 1pm and Thursdays 3pm to 6pm.  The clinics will continue through the end of January. No appointment is needed.

Ridgefield releases plan for at-home COVID-19 test kit distribution

Ridgefield officials have released details about a planned distribution of at-home COVID-19 test kits for residents.  The distribution will take place on Saturday from 10am to 2pm, with residents entering from Ridgebury Road via the Ridgefield High School Parking lot.  Drivers will be asked to follow signage and exit via North Salem Road.  Location for test distribution is at Scotts Ridge Middle School and will only be accessed via Ridgebury Road.  Two test kits per family will be distributed, with proof of residency.  The Office of Emergency Management says if everyone takes only two kits per family, there will be enough to serve all of Ridgefield.   Kits are intended to be used if someone has COVID symptoms or had a direct exposure.

New Fairfield Fire Marshal offers reminder of space heater safety

The New Fairfield's Fire Marshal's Office is offering some reminders as the cold temperatures hang around, and in light of a fatal fire in the Bronx caused by a space heater.  The Fire Marshal says users should know the distances to combustibles required by the manufacture.  81-percent of home heating fire deaths involved stationary or portable space heaters between 2014 and 2018.  During that time, the leading factor contributing to home heating fires was failure to clean, principally from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys.  Half of home heating fire deaths were caused by having heating equipment too close to things that can burn, such as upholstered furniture, clothing, mattresses, or bedding.

Newtown Police 2nd in Command to leave to become Plainville Chief

Newtown is looking to replace the top two law enforcement officers in town.  Police Chief James Viadero previously announced that he would be leaving at the end of the month for a job with the state. 

Now, Captain Chris Vanghele has announced he will be leaving on January 30th to become the police chief in Plainville.  Vanghele is a 28-year veteran who manages the department’s day-to-day operations as second-in-command.  

Viadero will head the state Office of the Inspector General, which was created under Connecticut’s 2020 police accountability act to investigate police-involved shootings. 

There's also turnover in Brookfield.  Police CHief Jay Purcell is retiring at the end of the month after 38 years with the force, including the last 5 as Chief.  

New Milford Town Council signs off creation of regional health district

The New Milford Town Council has signed off on creation of a regional health district.  A public hearing was held this week before the vote to have New Milford and the Pomperaug District Department of Health merge and be known as the Housatonic Valley Health District.  Washington will hold a vote to join the new consolidated district this month and then paperwork will be submitted to the state. 

New Milford Health Director Lisa Morrissey has been serving residents of Southbury, Oxford and Woodbury since August when the Pomperaug director was ousted when an independent investigator found wide-ranging, systemic and cultural problems in the district. Neal Lustig was suspended in June after a complaint was filed by a new deputy director and an office incident with another employee.  He served 33 years in the district.

The new department could leverage state funding, an incentive for regionalizing.

Danbury Planners approve flood plain permit for used car dealer

The Danbury Planning Commission has approved a flood plain permit for a used car dealer to locate a new office, showroom and display lot.  The 4 properties off exit 6 of I-84 previously housed Danbury Ambulance, which just before the pandemic moved into the hospital.  Approval was needed for Blasius of Danbury because part of the land is in the Padanaram Brook flood plain.  The Walnut Street proposal also has frontage on Oakland Avenue Ext and Rowan Street Ext.  Danbury Deputy Planning Director Jennifer Emminger says the City's engineering department signed off on plans to demolish two of the four buildings and renovate two others.  A 2,500-square foot garage, a 3,800-square-foot showroom and office building, and an open area for parking is planned, with the used car inventory lot on the east of the buildings. Plans call for storm drainage improvements and the installation of curbing and sidewalks along Walnut Street and Oakland Avenue.

Public hearing in Danbury tonight on proposed changes to The Summit Master Plan

A public hearing will be held in Danbury tonight about changes to the master plan of The Summit.  The revisions to the development on Danbury's westside would allow for the Career Academy, a City-run public school serving 1,400 middle and high school students, to be created.  Changes include a minimum of 180 residential units, rather than the previously approved 404 apartments, and  increasing the number of square feet permitted for non-residential use.  The Zoning Commission's virtual meeting is at 7:30pm.

New operator for proposed charter school in Danbury selected

A new operator for a proposed charter school in Danbury has been selected.  Hearst Connecticut Media reports that John Taylor, executive director of the Booker T. Washington Academy in New Haven, would run the school, pending state approval. 

The Danbury Charter School Planning Team previously proposed the Brooklyn-based Prospect Charter School, but believe a Connecticut-based operator would get more support from the state.  A written request to amend the certification must be submitted to the state Department of Education for review and a vote. 

The proposed charter school would serve 770 students in 6th through 12th grade. The school would open to 110 6th graders, based on a lottery system, and add a grade in subsequent years.

A philanthropist has promised a $25 million donation to transforma property at the corner of Main and Rose streets into the school.

Area Fire Departments warn of winter fire dangers

When the cold weather arrives, so too does the portable heating equipment. The Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company is offering some winter weather reminders following a deadly fire in the Bronx, which was caused by a space heater.  The fire department urges residents to plug space heaters directly into a wall outlet, not a power strip or extension cord.  If the plug is hot, the space heater should be disconnect from power. 

If there is a fire, keep the doors closed.  A closed door keeps smoke and fire from traveling and reduces the fuel load the fire can get to. 

While portable heaters can help ward off the chilly nights, the New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department says they also pose a serious fire danger.  The National Fire Protection Association says heating equipment is a leading cause of fires in U.S. homes, accounting for 15% of all reported home fires between 2012 and 2016.  The New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department is reminding residents to keep space heaters at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn, make sure it has an auto shut-off if it tips over and does not block an exit.  

Water Witch Hose of New Milford urged residents to check furnaces, water heaters and wood stoves by a reliable professional.  They also suggest making sure there is a working smoke detector on every level of the home and consider installing carbon monoxide detectors.  Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning include headache, nausea, drowsiness. 

Families are also encouraged to have a home fire escape plan, with two exits from every room.  A meeting place in a safe location will help ensure all family members can be accounted for.  In the event of an emergency, the fire department should be called from a cordless phone, at a neighbor's home or other safe location.

Carmel man arrested on drug related charges

A Carmel man has been arrested on drug related charges.  New York State Police charged 45-year old William Mancusi yesterday following an investigation into a nonfatal overdose in the town of Southeast.  Troopers allege he was selling heroin in the Carmel area.  Mancusi was charged with three counts each of sale of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance.  He was arraigned and ordered held without bail for a court appearance on the 24th.

Project manager proposed for Bethel Police firing range project

A project manager has been selected to help the Town of Bethel move forward on completion of the police station firing range.  The Board of Selectmen asked the Finance Board to approve nearly $50,000 to hire Geralyn Hoerauf from consulting firm STV to coordinate this final phase of the project.  She served as project manager for the town’s recent school renovations. 

The new building on Judd Avenue opened about three years ago, but the firing range was not useable because of a leak any time it rained.  The material on one of the walls was not properly treated, but Downes Construction and its subcontractor have now successfully remediated the problem.  A waterproof coating was applied and some loose flashing on the roof was repaired. 

The final phase of the project is equipping the firing range so it can be used for training purposes.  But First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says it lacks a specialized HVAC unit and other equipment that can remove lead dust not approved in the initial design.  The quote from the vendor back then did not include the engineering work and the ventilation system. 

He says a town meeting will likely be needed to allocate capital reserve funds for the equipment.  Knickerbocker says computer-controlled targets move back and forth down long rails, so things have to be added to the ceiling and that involves engineering, architectural work and the installation. 

Area towns open warming centers

Bitter cold is settling into the state through tomorrow. The Newtown Emergency Management Office is urging residents to be prepared and to take action to protect pets. First Selectman Dan Rosenthal also called on residents to check on any elderly or frail neighbors to be certain they are doing OK in this weather. 

Several warming centers will be open during normal operating hours.  The Newtown Municipal Center is open 8am to 8pm.  The Newtown Community Center is open until 8pm, the Senior Center from 9am to 4 and the Library from 9:30am to 8pm. 

New Fairfield First Selectman Pat Del Monaco says brutally frigid temperatures are expected to impact the state through tomorrow, with single digit temperatures today accompanied by winds gusting to about 20 mph, resulting in below zero wind chill temperatures. 

The New Fairfield Library and Senior Center will be open for warming during regular hours. The Library will be open from 10 to 7 and the Senior Center from 9 to 4.  Masks are required in both buildings regardless of vaccination status. 

Brookfield First Selectman Tara Carr says warming centers will be open today at the senior center, the library, and the Greenknoll YMCA during their normal operating hours.  Masks are required at each location.  The Brookfield Health Department cautioned against the use of space heaters, generator use or grills inside homes or garages. 

In New Milford, residents needing to get out of the cold can go to the Loretta Brickley Room at Town Hall from 8am to 5pm.  Seniors can also use the senior center from 8am to 4pm as a warming station.

Governor Lamont is directing the state’s severe cold weather protocol to be activated through noon on Wednesday. This is the first time the protocol has been enacted during the 2021-2022 winter season.

While enacted, a system is set up for state agencies and municipalities to coordinate with United Way 2-1-1 and Connecticut’s network of shelters to make sure that anyone in need can receive shelter from the outdoors, including transportation to shelters.

Safety measures have been enacted at shelters and warming centers throughout Connecticut to adhere to the needs of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Danbury launches form for at home COVID-19 test positive results

The City of Danbury Department of Health and Human Services is collecting information from individuals who have tested positive using the iHealth COVID-19 At Home Test Kits distributed from the state.  Health Director Kara Prunty says the information will be used for surveillance purposes only, noting that it is protected by HIPAA Privacy Rules. If an At Home Test comes back positive, and the resident is experiencing symptoms, they were urged to contact a primary care physician.  Symptoms can include fever or chills, cough, difficulty breathing, fatigue, muscle or body aches, headache, new loss of taste or smell, sore throat, congestion or runny nose, nausea or vomiting.

https://www.cognitoforms.com/DanburyHealthDepartment/IHealthCOVID19AtHomeTestKitReportingForm

Redding Health Dept. not collecting at home COVID-19 test data, urged contact tracing

Redding Health Officer Doug Hartline says at-home COVID-19 test results do not need to be reported to the local health department.  But he says individuals must follow through with informing close contacts of positive findings to prevent the spread.  He notes that a negative test result means that the test did not detect the virus and does not rule out infection.  Repeating the test within a few days, with at least 24-hours between tests, will increase confidence in the negative result.  A positive result should result in isolation for 5 days, or longer if symptoms persist.

Danbury Chamber postpones start of Leadership Danbury 2022

As a result of the increased COVID-19 cases in the region, the Greater Danbury Chamber of Commerce has decided to postpone the start date of Leadership Danbury 2022 from January 26th, to February 23rd.  The goal is to hold the program in person, in a safe social distancing environment. The program is designed to develop the region’s community leadership so that the younger generation is equipped to assume leadership positions. Leadership Danbury is marking its 35th anniversary this month. A one-day workshop is held each month for eight consecutive months to provide participants with an in-depth knowledge about issues and institutions of community significance.  There is tuition for the program.

COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Danbury today

The state Department of Public Health Griffin Health Mobile Vaccination Team will be holding a walk-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Danbury today.  The clinic at Stew Leonard's is from 10am to 6pm, offering first, second and booster doses.  No appointment is needed for the free shots, with all three vaccine brands being administered.

Southbury resident defrauded of large sum of money in phone scam

A Southbury resident was recently scammed out of a large sum of money after being told by a scammer her grandson was involved in a serious motor vehicle accident and needed bail money.  Southbury Police say the scammer then proceeded to meet the victim at her home to retrieve the money. 

The Southbury Police Department has seen an increase in telephone scams. 

Police are reminding residents not to give out personal information over the phone, including address, social security number, date of birth or credit card/bank account information.  Residents with older loved ones or neighbors are asked to continue to check on them and ensure they are aware of potential scam phone calls.

The New Fairfield Resident Trooper's Office is also cautioning residents to phone scams in town, specifically the so-called grandparent scam.  These scammers find out information about people, including elderly relatives, from online searches and social media. 

Residential burglary under investigation in Sherman

A residential burglary is under investigation in Sherman.  Connecticut State Police responded to a Chapel Hill Road home on Thursday afternoon on a report that a burglary had just occurred.  The crime happened between 11am and 1:30pm.  Anyone with information is asked to call Troop A at 203-267-2240 and reference case #2200008213 or e-mail TPR Bistolas #813 at ilias.bistolas@ct.gov, or TFC Tate #339 at shermanresidenttrooper@gmail.com.

Bethel NJROTC completes 20th annual Christmas tree pickup fundraiser

Bethel NJROTC has completed their 20th annual Christmas tree pickup fundraiser.   406 trees were collected in Bethel in 3 hours.  The Bethel School District called it a great success and noted that the cadets also cleared out the courtyard and sidewalks of snow. This fundraiser helps offset the cost of numerous educational activities.

Danbury City Council approves surplus budget plan

The City of Danbury plans to put some surplus funding toward capital projects in future budgets.  $3 million  is expected to be set aside.  Danbury will also earmark money for the upcoming state mandated property revaluation, projects at Danbury Municipal Airport and retroactive raises approved for the firefighters and municipal employees unions.  Some surplus funding will also be put into a reserve for city-funded grant agencies through the United Way of Western Connecticut.  Some money is typically included in the City's operating budget, but was in 2020-21 due to COVID-19 financial challenges.

The Danbury Board of Education's revenues for the last fiscal year surpassed expenditures by $2.9 million dollars.  The surplus will be placed in a contingency fund for unplanned school costs.  The Board of Ed also expects some federal coronavirus relief grant reimbursement for the school lunch program and remote learning, which would also be placed into contingency. 

The Candlewood Lake Authority had asked for a big budget increase last year and several of the five surrounding towns approved the funding as requested.  Danbury did not initially budget for the increase, but the City Council at their meeting last week voted to add $53,600 to its contribution.  The CLA says the funding is going toward patrol boats, staffing and other needs.

3 confirmed Omicron variant cases detected in Danbury

There have been 3 confirmed Omicron variant cases in Danbury detected in COVID-19 tests sent for genomic sequencing.  Public Health Director Kara Prunty says demand for PCR testing is continuing and the City is working to identify a location for the SEMA4 site to move because the West Conn Westside campus is only open until the 16th.  Danbury has taken delivery of a second allocation of at home COVID-19 test kits from the state.  Danbury received 5500 kits.  They're working with the Housing Authority, large community organizations and faith based groups for this distribution.  While there won't be another drive thru event to hand out kits this time, Prunty says there is now a form on the City's website for people who need help getting a test kits, such as if there are transportation issues, for requests.

Danbury Police, Fire chiefs update City Council on COVID-19 staffing issues

Danbury schools were closed last week due to staffing issues and bus shortages.  Members of the City Council asked at their meeting on Thursday for an update on staffing of emergency responders.  Police Chief Patrick Ridenhour noted that they are able to fill shifts, but are always concerned with the current surge in COVID-19.  He says the Police Department is managing, but it's getting tough.  Danbury Fire Chief Richard Thode says 6 members are out as COVID positive are several are in quarantine awaiting results.  He says the Fire Department is holding on and has back up plans, but they're not at that point yet.  In talking with other Fire Chiefs in the area, Thode says Danbury is doing better than some others when it comes to staffing.

Free COVID-19 testing at Kent Transfer Station expanded

Free COVID-19 testing at the Kent Transfer Station will be expanded to three days a week. Testing be available on Mondays, Thursdays, and Saturdays from 4pm to 7pm.  This is PCR testing and the lab has limited capacity.  There is a separate lane for emergency responders. Meanwhile Kent Emergency Management Director David Becker has resigned.  First Selectman Jean Speck noted that he stepped in at the beginning of the pandemic, as a longtime colleague from her State government days, initially just to help out.  The pair helped create a new CERT team, Community Emeremcy Management Response Team.

Lake Zoar weed management treatment was successful

According to the 2021 end of year aquatic plant treatment survey of Lake Zoar, performed by North East Aquatic Research, the weed treatment was successful.  Over 82 acres were treated, resulting in weeds being greatly reduced or completely gone after chemical application. No water chestnut was found despite its presence upstream in Lake Lillinonah.

Invasive aquatic plants in designated management areas in Lake Zoar were treated with the herbicide in August. 

Eurasian milfoil was reduced in abundance or gone completely in 6 of the management areas, two had unchanged abundance, and the three areas where milfoil was not present had scattered new growth in September.  Curly-leaf pondweed was the most abundant invasive species in May, occurring at 50-100% surface coverage in 8 of the 11 management areas. It was not found in any of the management areas in September. 

Brookfield Volunteer FD responded to about 3,000 calls for service in 2021

Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company responded just shy of 3,000 calls for service last year.  There were 928 Fire responses and about 2,000 EMS responses.  Those are the highest numbers the Department has ever recorded.  Fire and EMS response had an increase of about 28% over the last 3 years trends.  Company officials say the volunteer emergency responders logged over 97-hundred hours of combined training through weekly and state courses. The average response per fire call was 7.8 members. 

Rt 34, Wasserman Way improvements to start

The state has started a traffic flow, safety and congestion-relief project in Newtown on Berkshire Road in the area between Toddy Hill Road and the I-84 overpasses.  Improvements are being made to the area of Wasserman Way, Berkshire Road nd the area around and feeding Newtown High School.  A direct access to I-84 is being created from Route 34 north.  The overnight work is slated to end in March of 2024.  Newtown state Representative Mitch Bolinsky says there will be improved sight-lines, dedicated turn-lanes, greater safety and far less congestion.  Once complete, up to 60% of peak traffic flowing north from points south on Route 34, as far as New Haven, will no longer enter the Wasserman Way, Route 34 and existing Exit 11 confluence.

Sen. Murphy visits Danbury Hospital to get update on COVID-19 situation

Senator Chris Murphy visited Danbury Hospital yesterday afternoon to thank healthcare workers and to get an update on the COVID-19 situation in Danbury.  Murphy says he's in awe of what frontline healthcare workers are doing in Danbury.

He notes that it's been a really hard time lately as everyone thought we turned a corner on the virus, but now there's another surge.  Murphy added that it's been tough for these workers who have put their health and lives on the line for two years straight.

Murphy told Nuvance Health officials that he wants to be sure Washington D.C. is doing everything they can to support them.  He says it was a good opportunity to learn what hospitals need to get through this winter as staff is stretched incredibly thin.

While there are breakthrough infections, Murphy was told that most of the people in the hospital with COVID-19 are the unvaccinated.  

The Nuvance system has more than 800 staff out with COVID-19 right now. While Murphy says the COVID patient surge is real, they only have 3 in ICU care now, which is positive.

(Photo: Sen. Murphy)

As for the at-home COVID-19 test kits being ordered by the federal government for distribution, Murphy says the President has moved forward with some emergency federal powers to compel more production of these kits.  Demand has been huge, especially over the holidays, but he expects there will be increased supply in the next 30 to 60 days.

COVID-19 statistics for Greater Danbury updated by DPH

The state department of Public Health is reporting COVID-19 infection rates for the Greater Danbury area ranging from 16.8 percent to 23.6 percent.  The lowest test positivity is in Ridgefield and the highest is in Danbury.  The rates are:

Ridgefield 16.8 percent

Newtown 18 percent

Redding 18.2 percent

New Milford 18.2 percent 

Bethel 19-point-7 percent

Brookfield 21.8 percent 

New Fairfield 22.1 percent 

Danbury 23.6 percent 

The state department of Public Health is reporting COVID-19 case rates for the Greater Danbury area ranging from 109 to 173 per 100,000 population. The lowest case rate is in New Milford and the highest is in Brookfield, based on population. 

The rates are:

New Milford 109.3

Redding 119.9

Newtown 139.3

New Fairfield 142.1

Bethel 147.5

Ridgefield 153.4

Danbury 154.4

Brookfield 173.8

According to the latest COVID-19 data from the state Department of Public Health, Danbury reported 1,831 cases in the last two weeks.  Bethel has had 409 cases, there were 413 COVID cases in Brookfield, and New Fairfield reported 276.  There were 410 COVID cases in New Milford, 544 in Newtown, Redding reported 153 cases in the last two weeks while Ridgefield had 536. 

The state Department of Public Health is reporting New Milford, Newtown, Redding and Ridgefield's COVID-19 infection rates increased 7 percent since last week.  New Fairfield increased 8 percent while Bethel, Brookfield, and Danbury's infection rates doubled. 

The number COVID-associated deaths has grown by 121 since last Thursday.  The state is reporting a 3.29 percent breakthrough rate of COVID-19 infections among the state's fully vaccinated population. The daily test positivity rate yesterday was 22.81 percent.  About 68-percent of patients in Connecticut hospitals with lab confirmed COVID-19 are not fully vaccinated. 

According to the weekly data released by the state Department of Public Health, 91.5 percent of COVID-19 tests sent for genomic sequencing came back as being the Omicron variant.  8.5 percent were identified as the Delta variant.

WCSU Spring semester to start in-person, residential students to be tested

Beginning Monday, West Conn offices will return to normal operations and schedules.  The spring semester will begin as originally scheduled, with Move-in Day for residential students on Tuesday the 18th.  Upon arrival, residential students will receive a rapid antigen test. Students who test positive will not be permitted to move in. 

Classes scheduled as in-person will remain that way, with three feet of separation between desks and masks required. 

WestConn President Dr John Clark says in order to avoid surprises, the university recommends students test themselves at home on the morning of Move-in Day and stay home if positive.  Those who have been granted exemptions to vaccination will be required to test beginning the week of January 24th and to submit those results by the weekly deadline.

During the semester, residential students in apartment-style halls who test positive or are symptomatic will isolate in their rooms with their roommates. Students living in Litchfield or Newbury Halls will isolate in Fairfield Hall.  Any student able to return home to recover is encouraged to follow that course. 

Indoor social distancing and masks will be required for the foreseeable future and no spectators will be allowed at WCSU athletic events.

Bethel receives second shipment of COVID-19 rapid home test kits

Bethel has received a second shipment of COVID-19 rapid home test kits and will make them available to town residents tomorrow from 11am to 1pm on Whittlesey Drive in the Bethel Schools Campus.  Residents are asked to enter via Plumtrees road, but not to arrive early as Bethel Police will be on hand to make sure vehicles are not queuing up on Whittlesey Drive or on the school campus before the site opens.  The supply is limited so only one kit per household will be distributed, on a first come first served basis until supplies last.  Each kit contains 2 tests.  The priority is for those individuals experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or who were likely exposed to someone who is COVID positive.

Bridgewater receives limited number of at home COVID-19 test kits

Bridgewater has received a limited number of at home COVID-19 test kits. The first shipment included 90 kits, not 270 as promised. These were mostly allocated for emergency and “critical” employees and Burnham School. Another shipment of 90 more kits was picked up yesterday.  Instead of a “drive thru” event which has caused problems with other towns, Bridgewater will accept requests from residents who can’t get tests elsewhere, who have been directly exposed, or who suspect they are experiencing COVID symptoms.  The town will arrange for people to pick up test kits outside of Bridgewter Town Hall, or delivery if required.  Requests will be accepted starting Friday, 9-12am by calling 860-354-2731.

1 car stolen, 8 entered in Ridgefield

Ridgefield Police are again warning residents of thefts from cars, many of which are happening to owners who left the property in unlocked vehicles.  An Audi was reported stolen from a Ridgefield driveway early Sunday morning.  In a separate incident, 8 vehicles were entered on Soundview Road.  Police say a laptop and charger were taken before the homeowner scared off the burglar.

Danbury City Council agenda changed to clarify items allowed for public comment

The issue of Danbury residents trying to ask questions at the monthly Danbury City Council meeting came up again last night.  The City Charter says residents or taxpayers may address matters before the Council at each meeting.  Up until last month, Department Reports were a numbered item on the agenda, but this month they weren't number.  They were simply listed at the end and Mayor Dean Esposito says they are information for Council members.  He did say he would make himself available to residents to ask their questions at another time.  Residents have tried to ask about homelessness, COVID-19 response and police activity among other issues covered in the reports.

COVID-19 testing sites in New Milford, Danbury closed due to snow

Due to today's snow, the SEMA4 COVID-19 testing site in Danbury at West Conn's Westside campus is closed today. The testing site will reopen tomorrow at 10am.  New Milford has also cancelled today's COVID-19 testing at the Pettibone Community Center.  Testing will resume tomorrow.  Those that have confirmed reservations, are asked to go to testct.online and reserve a new appointment.

Ridgefield Board of Selectmen declares local state of emergency

The Ridgefield Board of Selectmen has voted to declare a local state of emergency due to severe COVID conditions.  First Selectman Rudy Marconi asked that the matter be added to the agenda of their meeting Wednesday.  It passed unanimously among the three Selectmen in attendance.  The declaration provides liability coverage to Community Emergency Response Team volunteers.  Marconi noted that the town purchased 17,000 rapid test kits from Florida for $340,000, which will likely be paid out of the town's share of federal American Rescue Plan Act funds.  CERT will distribute kits to community members in the coming weeks.

FEMA to reimburse CHC for mass vax sites

The Federal Emergency Management Agency will be sending nearly $1.7 million to Connecticut to reimburse the Community Health Center, Inc. for the costs of operating four mass vaccination sites at the start of vaccine rollouts.  The funding will cover the costs of setting up, promoting and operating between January and October 2021 at Danbury Mall, Pratt and Whitney Airfield, Lord and Taylor in Stamford and Weslyan University.  So far, FEMA has provided more than $279 million in Public Assistance grants to Connecticut to reimburse the state for pandemic-related expenses.  FEMA officials say providing resources for those on the front lines of the pandemic fight is critical to their success, and the success of the nation.

Redding to hand out 500 COVID-19 test kits

Redding has received an additional allocation of 500 at home COVID test kits.  Pre-Registration for distribution opens at noon today.  Kits will be distributed tomorrow from noon to 2pm at Redding Community Center Field 3.  Redding residents are asked to print the registration confirmation and bring it to the distribution, along with a drivers license as proof of Redding residency.  Distribution is limited to 1 kit per household. Each kit contains 2 tests.  Anyone who does not bring the registration confirmation will not receive a kit.  People are asked to wear a mask and stay in their vehicle.  No walk-ups will be allowed. 

New Fairfield receives more COVID-19 test kits for distribution

New Fairfield has received an additional allocation of at home COVID test kits.  First Selectman Pat Del Monaco asked that residents only request a test if symptomatic, had been in close contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID, or work in close contact with the public.  Anyone who received a test kit in the previous distribution, is also asked not sign up to receive a kit in this distribution. The kits will be distributed tomorrow in front of the Middle School from noon to 2pm.  Reservations can be made by using the link found on the New Fairfield Town website.  There are 425 slots available, and a limit of 2 test kits per car.  The confirmation e-mail must be presented at pick up.  In an effort to minimize the impact on traffic, residents are asked not to arrive early. 

Putnam County to distribute thousands of rapid COVID-19 tests

Putnam County will be distributing thousands of rapid COVID-19 tests to food pantries, shelters, libraries, senior citizen centers and houses of worship over the coming days.  County Executive MaryEllen Odell says this is an effort to stem the spread of the Omicron variant and keep schools and businesses open.  Putnam County entered into a public/private partnership with Ambulnz to set up testing centers in Carmel and Philipstown, but not everyone can easily reach those sites.  The county received about 4400 rapid antigen test kits from New York state in its first shipment. More are expected. The Paladin Center and Philipstown Rec sites opened on December 27th and tested more than 4500 people and 17-percent were positive for COVID.

Danbury declares Level 1 snow emergency

Danbury has declared a Level 1 snow emergency.  For the duration of the storm, no on street parking is allowed. All vehicles must already be moved into alternate parking as the declaration requires cars be removed no later than 2 hours after the start of a winter storm.  Street parking will be allowed once again after all snow-and-ice-control operations have ended.  If residents have no other place to park, the Patriot Parking Garage is open free of charge, for the duration of the storm.  Vehicles on City streets are being ticketed and towed. The Town of Monroe also has a parking ban in effect.

New Fairfield police warn of burglaries in neighboring towns

The New Fairfield Resident Trooper's Office is getting area alerts from neighboring towns of an increase in residential and commercial burglaries.  Troopers are reminding residents to call in suspicious vehicles or activity to Police and to lock cars overnight.  This criminal activity has continued.

Local fire departments warn of text message fundraiser scams

Local fire and police departments are warning of text messages that are currently circulating around the U.S. allegedly selling Fire Department T-Shirts, but they are a scam.

Fire departments are not sending text messages to people to get them to buy shirts, despite the messages looking real. Stevenson, Monroe and  Stepney Fire Departments do not sell T-Shirts, and will never solicit money through text message. Anoutone who believes they have fallen victim to this scam is urged to contact Monroe Police.

Southbury Police Department has gotten similar reports of the potential scam situation.  Southbury Fire Department and Southbury Training School Fire have been represented in this scam, but this has nothing to do with departments.

Danbury offering radon test kits to residents

The City of Danbury Department of Health & Human Services is offering free radon test kits to residents. Radon is an odorless and invisible poisonous gas.  Radon gas is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers. Radon is formed from the decay of naturally occurring uranium and found in rock, soil and water.  Danbury residents will need to provide a refundable $10 deposit for the free radon test kit.

COVID-19 vaccine clinics in Danbury, Newtown

A walk-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic is being held in Newtown today.  All three brands of vaccine will be available for first, second or booster shots at NYA Sports and Fitness Center on the Fairfield Hills Campus until 3:30pm.  Booster shots are being administered in Danbury by the Community Health Center at Hatters Park on East Hayestown Road from 1pm to 7pm.

COVID-19 testing in New Milford tomorrow cancelled

COVID-19 testing in New Milford tomorrow is being cancelled due to the impending snow storm.  The clinic was cancelled yesterday because staff couldn't get to the Community Center.  Initially testing was delayed yesterday, but the contracted staff was involved in an accident due to the icy conditions in the 684-84 area.

New Milford and Washington residents with appointments for yesterday and tomorrow are being asked to reschedule online.

New Milford reported another 81 COIVD-9 tests to the state yesterday since Tuesday.  COVID vaccine clinics for January at the Community Center are fully booked, but Mayor Pete Bass says area pharmacies should have appointments available.  He notes that current turn around times for results of COVID testing at the Community Center is about 5 to 7 days.

Local lawmaker announces reelection bid

64th state House District Representative Maria Horn has announced her bid for reelection.  She'll be seeking a third term in the state's northwest corner, including Kent.  The district gained the Town of Washington in the new redistricting initiative, and the rest of Goshen, which was divided in 2011 reapportionment.

Bank robbed in New Milford

A bank was robbed in New Milford yesterday afternoon.  Police are investigating the robbery at Webster Bank on Main Street.  The suspect was described as a white male, approximately 6-foot-2 with a thin build.  The man was wearing a dark colored jacket, black gloves, sunglasses, a dark colored hat and a mask.  The robbery suspect fled the scene on a bicycle.  Anyone with any information is encouraged to contact New Milford Police Officer Ryan at 860-355-3133.  The Connecticut Bankers Association is offering a 500-dollar reward for any information leading to the arrest of the robbery suspect.

Danbury schools closed today, tomorrow

Danbury schools are closed today and tomorrow due to staffing and transportation issues due to COVID-19.  Superintendent Kevin Walston says they initially planned a two-hour delay throughout the week giving them the time needed to plan for the safety of students and to preserve teacher and support staff’s ability to adequately plan for their day.  But he says they continue to struggle with staffing in all areas. Danbury Schools will be closed today and tomorrow, but Walston says they plan to open the following week, anticipating improved staffing.  While Walston said the abrupt closure created “an additional burden” for families, he appreciated the flexibility under these difficult circumstances.

DEEP hearing set on Stewardship Permit for clean up of Old Newtown Road property

A virtual public hearing has been scheduled by the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection about a Stewardship Permit for clean up of an Old Newtown Road property in Danbury.  This is a renewal of a previously issued stewardship permit authorizing completion of corrective action including environmental investigation and remediation of the old Crown Risdon manufacturing property.  

The permit must be renewed every 10 years. 

The former cosmetic container manufacturer operated at 15 Old Newtown Road for nearly 50 years, starting in 1956.  Remediation began in 1981.  The main chemical on site is a common cleaning solvent used at the time. 

Maintenance and long term environmental monitoring must be conducted to ensure completed corrective actions remain effective into the future.  The permit allows for groundwater monitoring, and does not authorize treating, storing, or disposing of hazardous and solid wastes generated off-site.  The virtual hearing tonight will be held via Zoom at 6pm.  People interested can register in advance https://ctdeep.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJYkdOyrqD4jE9ea5MdWhebnm4SJsGX2QuOX.      

New COVID-19 rapid testing site opens in Ridgefield

A new COVID-19 rapid testing site will open today in Ridgefield.  Appointments are required for the testing at the Yanity Gym parking lot between 9am and 2pm.  Tents will be set up for check in and swabbing in the area near the skate park. Sign-ups will be allowed up to 24 hours in advance.  Residents are asked to bring photo ID and insurance card if available.  Appointments can be scheduled through Docs Medical Group at: Ridgefield COVID Testing.  Testing will be done Monday through Friday, though there might be date and time adjustments due to staffing.

Danbury PCR test site opens earlier than posted hours

The Danbury PCR testing location at West Conn's west side campus closed shortly after the scheduled opening time once again.  The lab has limited the number of tests available to 700.  Residents reported showing up by 11:30, expecting to wait until 1pm when the scheduled hours start, but were swabbed and on their way by 12:30.  When asked about the posted hours being adjusted, the Danbury Department of Health & Human Services said they are required to post normal operating hours, but in the event the line begins to build up and all the testing staff are present, SEMA4 can choose to begin testing early to help minimize traffic issues.

Danbury Senior Center distributes COVID-19 At Home Test Kits

Danbury Senior Center has received COVID-19 At Home Test Kits from the City to distribute for free to residents over the age of 60.  Some 400 were distributed earlier this week and Elmwood Hall has about 130 left to hand out today and tomorrow, or while supplies last.  They will be distributed outside at the senior center from 9am to 2pm on a first come, first serve basis. Proof of age and Danbury residency is required. A part-time van driver and others will deliver about 50 kits to seniors who lack transportation.  Any senior who lacks transportation is urged to call the senior center at 203-797-4686 to make delivery arrangements.

'We were trapped': Trauma of Jan. 6 lingers for lawmakers

A year after the January 6th insurrection, some of the lawmakers who were trapped in the upper House balcony that day, including one from Connecticut, are still recovering from lingering trauma. They were the last group to be evacuated, after the rest of their colleagues had been ushered out from the floor below. The roughly three dozen lawmakers were evacuated safely.  

4th District Congressman Jim Himes says he has tried not to dwell on what happened. But he still has searing images in his mind, including watching police drag heavy furniture in front of the main doors to the House floor as the rioters tried to beat them down.

As a member of the House Intelligence Committee, Himes says he spends a lot of time in high-security spaces — and before January 6th, he had assumed the Capitol was one of them.

Himes says it was as though watching water flow uphill, adding it was something that he imagined was impossible was happening right in front of his eyes.

Brookfield to study putting sewers in around Candlewood Lake

A state grant has been secured by the Town of Brookfield for a study of putting sewers in certain locations around Candlewood Lake.  The $1.5 half million study would be for the Candlewood Peninsula and Dean and Pocono Road areas.  The anticipated cost of extending sewer lines to about 1200 properties would be millions of dollars.  Assessments would range between 8 and 16 percent of the total value of affected properties. 

The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection has a Clean Water Fund, which could be tapped to offset some of the cost.  

Brookfield Water Pollution Control Authority chairman Nelson Malwitz says the existing septic systems can eliminate biological waste on these properties, but they are unable to filter out nutrients that can eventually contaminate bodies of water.  He notes that this summer had more town beach closures than Brookfield has ever had due to blue green algae.  There was also a bloom last December, unusual because they typically happen in the summer after rain storms. 

A focus for the first phase would be by the old marketplace across the Still River.  The area includes the historic Brookfield Craft Center.  Malwitz says there are environmental health and safety challenges.  Malwitz suggested Brookfield could use some of the town's share of the federal American Rescue Plan Act money toward this project.  The ARPA Ad Hoc Committee will look into the proposal of using $800,000 to cover most of the $1 million cost. 

The Committee will present ideas to the selectmen in February.  The committee has received a couple of dozen requests from committees, boards and residents, along with hundreds of responses to a public survey sent out last month. 

Icy roads close schools, blamed for numerous crashes

Icy roads this morning led to schools closures around the Greater Danbury area as buses had trouble on some roads and staff members were stuck in traffic and couldn't get to the buildings.  State Police at one point during the morning commute said there were too many accidents to list on I-84 in the Newtown-Southbury-Waterbury area.  Police scanner reports were that police cruisers had trouble getting to some of the accident sites due to road congestion and the conditions.  The Connecticut Department of Transportation has released a statement about roads not being pre-treated before this morning's storm.  The DOT called it a ‘perfect storm' of being too cold yesterday to lay down liquid pre-treatment and too windy to pre-treat with hard salt.

COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Danbury for 5 and older

A mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinic is being held today in Danbury.  The clinic is subject to cancellation however in the event of a significant weather event.  Pediatric Pfizer shots for kids 5 to 11, and first second and booster shots of all three brands of vaccine for those 12 and older are being administered at the PAL building on Hayestown Road from 2:30pm to 6:30.

Lake Zoar Marine Patrol out with year-end summary of enforcement actions

Lake Zoar Marine Patrol has reported a 2021 year-end summary of enforcement actions by month, including 20 in May, 50 in June, 47 in July, 52 in August, and 41 in September. There were a total of 30 tows of disabled boats during the 2021 season.  The Lake Zoar Authority has reported that duck hunters were sighted near the sand bar. Hunting is allowed 500 feet from shore, and not within 500 feet from buildings where people or livestock are present.  The Lake Authority noted that hunters were spotted too close to shore multiple times in December and their vessel’s registration number was reported to DEEP.

Bethel officials explain changes in notification for school COVID-19 exposures

Bethel School officials are clarifying changes in notification for school COVID-19 exposures.  The new system is very similar to the previous central office notifications.  It informs parents that there was a person in the school that was COVID positive.  The state has changed their guidance to move away from contact tracing and focusing resources on identification, early isolation, and clinical management of students and staff with active symptoms that could be related to COVID-19.   This change was made by the Department of Public Health because data indicates that transmissions in public schools across the state are low risk, given compliance with mitigation strategies.

Redding Highway Department picking up Christmas trees

The Redding Highway Department will be picking up Christmas trees on a road-by-road basis starting today, though may be delayed due to inclement weather.  All lights, tinsel and ornaments must be removed.  Live trees in plastic bags will not be accepted.  If significant snow accumulation occurs trees must be placed on top of the snow as the highway department will not dig them out.  Trees are also accepted at the Recycling Center free of charge during normal business hours. The trees will be chipped, and the chips will be available at the Recycling Center free of charge to all residents.

Putnam County now offering free rapid COVID-19 testing

Putnam County is now offering free rapid COVID-19 testing for residents.  Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell says the tests are being offered a walk-in basis at the Paladin Center in Carmel seven days a week from 10am to 6pm.  The site will be open exclusively to school children from 6am to 9am on weekdays.  The children must attend schools in Putnam County.  In the new year, local school districts will also be able to implement Test to Stay, a testing strategy that enables close contacts to avoid school quarantines.  Local implementation plans and policies must align with the guidance from the  state health department and are still being developed.  

COVID cases double in New Fairfield

The number of COVID cases reported daily in New Fairfield continues to increase rapidly.  57 new cases were reported yesterday, and there are now 120 active cases.  Although there is currently no State mask mandate in place outside of schools, First Selectman Pat Del Monaco says wearing a high quality mask such as a KN95 or N95 mask in public spaces is strongly encouraged. The Health Director has been receiving numerous calls from residents reporting results of at-home tests.  Del Monaco says those kits are often used as screening tools, and not reported to the local or state health departments.

Candlewood Lake drawdown delayed

The annual planned drawdown of Candlewood Lake has been delayed.  FirstLight Power says that's due to an unexpected issue at the Rocky River Pumped Hydro Station.  What would normally be a very short-term maintenance repair has stretched into a much longer outage due to supply chain delays and Covid-related staffing shortages with vendors.  FirstLight expects the station to be repaired and operational within the next week, or sooner, and will commence drawing the lake down as soon as the station is functional.

Cats rescued from Danbury house fire

A Danbury resident was sent to the hospital for evaluation after a house fire early yesterday morning.   Firefighters responded to Aunt Hack Road and found a working fire.  Crews faced high heat and fire conditions on the second floor but managed to quickly knocked down the flames. 

All the occupants were outside prior to firefighters arrival, but they did rescued two cats that were still in the home.

The Danbury Fire Marshal's Office is investigating the cause.  The occupant has since been released from the hospital. No other injuries were reported. 

The American Red Cross is helping the two adults to meet immediate needs. The Red Cross also provided a recovery envelope containing information helpful to families recovering from a fire, including tips on cleanup; notification of important contacts; dealing with damaged items and more. The Red Cross is also providing comfort kits containing personal care items such as toothbrushes, deodorant; shaving supplies and other items a resident might need when suddenly displaced from their home by a fire.

Danbury City Council orientation covers rules for public speaking at meetings

During an orientation meeting for new Danbury City Council members, an issue from their first meeting came up.  During the December meeting two residents tried to make comments on items included in Department Reports, which are listed at the end of the agenda for members to accept.  They were stopped by the Mayor, noting that the public speaking portion of the meeting is only for items specifically on the agenda.  Councilman Warren Levy told his colleagues the Charter was correctly interpreted, and that residents can get that information outside of the Council meeting.  But Councilman Jack Knapp noted that residents will argue Department Reports are an agenda item.  According to the City of Danbury Charter, the half an hour is reserved for resident or taxpayers on the matters before the Council at each meeting.

Local lawmaker calls for temporary reduction of state sales tax rate

Connecticut Senate Republicans are calling on the state legislature to temporarily reduce the state sales tax rate to provide relief to families being crushed by surging inflation.

Senate Minority Leader Kevin Kelly, whose district includes Monroe, says Connecticut’s state budget is benefiting from inflation as the state sales tax and gas tax brings in new, unplanned for revenue – a result of surging prices. Meanwhile, he says residents are struggling to balance their own family budgets with no relief in sight as inflation drives up the costs of everything, from food to energy to home heating oil.

Senate Republicans are proposing to reduce the sales tax from 6-point-35 percent to 5-point-99 percent and eliminate the additional 1 percent meals tax from February 15 through the end of calendar year 2022.  The state budget remains whole even with this tax reduction. The state budget is in surplus and is already directing a record amount of excess revenue to pay down on the state's pension debt, a policy adopted in the 2017 bipartisan budget.

The proposal will result is a temporary tax reduction totaling $315.1 million ($132.3 million in FY 22 and $182.8 million in FY 23) during the difficult months ahead.

Congressional delegation calls for investigation into allegations FCI Danbury failed to follow COVID guidelines

5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes and the state's two U.S. Senators have written to the U.S. attorney general, director of the Federal Bureau of Prisons and Danbury Federal Correctional Institution's acting warden calling for an investigation into allegations FCI Danbury failed to follow COVID-19 isolation guidelines. 

According to the allegations, more than half of the women at FCI Danbury Camp tested positive on December 27th, but weren't isolated or initially told whether they were positive.  The Bureau of Prisons responded that they are reviewing the letter, adding that that department follows CDC guidelines for testing and isolation. 

According to the latest update on Bureau of Prison’s COVID-19 dashboard, 55 incarcerated people and 12 staff members have tested positive. A 46-year-old Rhode Island woman is suing FCI Danbury and the warden to be released to home confinement because she says she cannot be vaccinated against COVID-19 due to her medical condition.

Connecticut Essential Workers COVID-19 Assistance Fund launched

A new program offering financial relief to essential workers in Connecticut who contracted COVID-19 has been launched.

The Connecticut Essential Workers COVID-19 Assistance Fund, authorized by the legislature in June, was created to help ease the financial burden for incidents between March 10, 2020 and July 20, 2021.

Eligible essential workers can apply for benefits to cover lost wages, out-of-pocket medical expenses and burial expenses.

Comptroller Natalie Braswell says frontline workers made immense sacrifices to keep the state functioning during the pandemic and she encourage eligible workers to apply as soon as possible for the relief.

Danbury Senator Julie Kushner says the website allows workers to determine their eligibility and apply for benefits. Applications will be accepted through July 20th. The program can distribute up to $34 million on a first-come, first-served basis through June 30th 2024, or until the fund is depleted.

The program assists with lost wages, out-of-pocket medical expenses and burial expenses.  This is for unpaid leave and lost wages if an employee was unable to work after contracting COVID-19, or due to symptoms later diagnosed as COVID-19.  This is also for medical services related to contracting COVID-19 that were not covered by insurance and funeral expenses of $3,000 for an eligible essential worker who died from COVID-19.

Eligible essential workers can apply for reimbursement of lost wages, out-of-pocket medical expenses, or both.  Families can apply for any combination of the three benefits on behalf of a qualified essential worker who died after contracting COVID-19.

Rochambeau Bridge replacement project ahead of schedule

The Rochambeau Bridge span replacement project in Newtown is still ahead of schedule.  The new westbound span is open to traffic. Preparation for the second phase traffic shift to facilitate removal and replacement of the eastbound span begins in the Spring.  Newtown state Representative Mitch Bolinsky says the new, temporary crossover being installed to make way for the eastbound closure will be engineered to have better vision, be safer, more user-friendly and easier to navigate than the one being removed, with a goal of minimizing the slowdowns of the original. The entire Rochambeau replacement project is expected to be complete by December 2023.

COVID-19 Vaccination Van resturns to New Fairfield, Sherman

The COVID-19 Vaccination Van is coming back to New Fairfield and Sherman for the first three months of the year.  The first six Wednesdays, beginning on the 12th, are at one the local schools in the late afternoon to encourage vaccinations of school-age children, the demographic with the lowest vaccination rates in New Fairfield and Sherman. 

The clinics at the schools are set up to accommodate children over 5 and will also have separate stations for adults.  Children between 5 and 11 years old can only be vaccinated at a clinic this month and early next.  

New Fairfield will continue the normal schedule of Saturday vaccinations at the High School for the general population and will pick up again at St. Edwards on Wednesdays after the school clinics are completed.  The Vaccination Van clinics are walk-in, no appointment necessary, and provide all three vaccines.

New Milford reschedules COVID-19 test kit, mask distribution

New Milford has received their reduced allotment of COVID 19 at home test kits and N95 masks from the state. For those that had confirmed reservations, an email with the new date and time was sent out.  New Milford is having another test kit distribution at Pettibone Community Cnetler on the 9th from 1pm to 5pm, by appointment only.  For the N95 masks, New Milford will be holding a Town wide distribution at Pettibone on the 15th from 9am to noon.  New Milford had 143 new COVID cases reported to the state from Thursday through yesterday.  Vaccine clinics every Wednesday at Pettibone for January are fully booked and Mayor Pete Bass says they're working on dates for February.  COVID testing in New Milford is for New Milforde and Washington residents only, by appointment only.  Bass says turn around times from the lab has results coming 5 to 7 days later due to extremely high volume. 

More cars line up than Redding had test kits to distrubute

Redding opened its COVID 19 at home test kit distribution site early yesterday. Cars began lining up at 9:30am and so the health department made the decision to begin early because there were more cars in line than Redding had tests by 11 o’clock.  First Selectman Julia Pemberton says she understands the frustration of those who waited in line and were turned away.  She added that when the town receives more kits a notice will be sent.

Sen. Haskell will not seek reelection to third term

State Senator Will Haskell will not seek reelection to a third term.  The 25-year-old Democrat, who is co-chairman of the legislative Transportation Committee, will serve the remaining year of this term.  He graduated from Georgetown University and will continue working through the summer in U.S. Rep. Jim Himes’ constituent-outreach office.  Haskell defeated longtime incumbent Republican Toni Boucher in 2018 by a slim margin.  Reapportionment is changing the 26th District.  Bethel is no longer included, but Redding, and about half of Ridgefield are part of the more southern district.

Board of Ed member resigns to focus on City Council

A Danbury Board of Education member is resigning.  Democrat Joe Britton was elected to the City Council in November.  His resignation will take effect on the 15th, so he'll serve at one final Board of Ed meeting on the 12th.  Britton represents the 4th Ward with Democrat Farley Santos, who also resigned from the Board of Ed when he was appointed to fill a vacancy on Council in 2019.  Britton's Board of Ed term expires in November 2023 so candidates will be interviewed to replace him.

Conn. task force looking into cancer relief benefits for firefighters

A task force looking into cancer relief benefits for firefighters has met to discuss the proposal approved in the last Connecticut General Assembly session.  Danbury Senator Julie Kushner led the meeting and says the state needs to better examine the outstanding needs of firefighters given the sacrifices they make for residents safety. 

The task force will look at the possibility of providing workers' compensation or other benefits to firefighters diagnosed with cancer acquired as a result of occupational exposure to noxious fumes or poisonous gases.  But some municipalities say workers comp would be too expensive and insurers say it would make coverage hard to obtain. 

Connecticut created a Firefighters Cancer Relief Fund in 2016 to replace at least some of a patient's earnings for as long as two years. Firefighters will become eligible in February 2022.  That fund has doesn't have a dedicated revenue stream and money for it must be budgeted each yest by state lawmakers. 

A study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety focused on firefighter cancer concluded that firefighters face a 9 percent increase in cancer diagnoses and a 14 percent increase in cancer-related deaths compared to the general population of the United States.  Bill Adamson of 7710 Insurance told the panel that it costs in California comp, 48 cents to develop a dollar of benefit.  The median across the country a study says it costs 25 cents to provide a dollar benefit in the comp world.

Sandy Hook intersection getting new traffic control device

A dangerous Sandy Hook intersection is getting a new traffic control device.  State Representative Mitch Bolinsky says Route 34 at Bennett's Bridge Road and Grays Plain Road is known for terrible sight lines and fast-moving traffic so this will be a welcome change.  The new traffic signals and overhead traffic detectors are now in place to make this a so-called "intelligent" intersection. The existing flashing light will go dark and be removed.

Weston to distribute COVID-19 at home test kits tonight

Weston only received about half of the at home COVID-19 test kits from the state than originally planned.  250 kits will be distributed today to those experiencing symptoms of COVID-19 or who were likely exposed to someone who is COVID positive.  1 kit will be distributed per household at Weston Middle School from 5 to 6:30pm.  The access drive to the middle school will be closed until 4:45, vehicles that arrive early will be turned away.  Proof of Residency Required. First come first serve.

Brookfield quickly distributes COVID-19 at home test kits

Brookfield's First Selectman is critical of the state's roll out of at home COVID-19 test allocations.  Tara Carr said in a statement posted to the Town's website that locally a great team of emergency management professionals  met throughout New Years weekend to get the kits out to the intended recipients as quickly as possible.  Carr says the Governor’s plan to allocate such a small amount, 4.4 percent of Brookfield's population, was flawed from the start. 

250 kits were held for school staff as the state’s school distribution did not come through. If and when the state’s school distribution should come through, she says those will go to the community. 

The line of cars began forming at 8:30 and by 10:50 Brookfield began distribution early.  Carr says this was done in part to discourage others from showing up and wasting their time waiting in a long queue as well as for safety along Pocono Road. 384 cars went through the line, receiving a total of 760 kits. Everyone was asked if they needed one or two for their households and Carr says only 8 cars took one box.

Nuvance Health updates visitation policy during COVID-19 surge

Nuvance Health has updated its visitation policy during this COVID-19 surge.  Visitation at emergency departments is temporarily paused except for extenuating circumstances and special populations.  This includes Danbury, New Milford, Norwalk and Sharon hospitals.  End-of-life visitation is also changing. Patients in critical condition when death may be imminent will be permitted up to two support persons to remain at bedside. Those two may rotate once with another two support persons for a total not to exceed four support persons per day.

Newtown Community Center asks visitors to consider masks in certain areas

Due to the rise in COVID-19 cases, the Newtown Community Center is asking that visitors consider wearing a mask in the locker rooms and other areas where social distancing may not be possible.  All instructors will be wearing a face covering until further notice. Swim Instructors will also be asked to  wear a face shield when working one on one during swim lessons.  The Newtown Community Center also offers Zoom classes are still an option for Health and Wellness programs for those who do not feel comfortable to attend in person.

Brookfield, Danbury hold COVID-19 booster clinics

The Brookfield Health Department COVID-19 Vaccine Booster Clinic is offering Moderna and J & J Booster doses every Tuesday 10am to 1pm and on Thursday 3pm to 6 at Brookfield Town Hall.  The Community Health Center has a vaccine clinic in Danbury at Hatters Park on Hayestown Road weekdays from 1 to 7, administering all three brands.  A pediatric clinic is held Mondays and Wednesday at 132 Main Street from 4pm to 6 on Mondays and Wednesdays 4pm to 6.

Senate approves youth suicide prevention bill written by Sandy Hook Promise

The U.S. Senate has approved a youth suicide prevention bill written by Sandy Hook Promise.  The nonprofit was founded by the parents of two children killed on 12-14.  The bill requires states to expand evidence-based suicide awareness prevention training for middle school and high school students as a condition of receiving grants from the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.  The House must vote again on the bill they previously approved in 2020, sending the measure to the White House for the President's signature. The Suicide Training and Awareness Nationally Delivered for Universal Prevention, or the STANDUP Act, would be the second federal legislation written by Sandy Hook Promise to become law.  The STOP School Violence Act was signed by President Donald Trump in 2018.  $100 million is granted annually to programs to know the signs and stop school violence

Danbury moves COVID-19 PCR testing to WCSU

Despite a limited number of home COVID-19 tests being distributed, continued demand for PCR testing is expected to be high in the coming weeks.  Danbury has relocated the SEMA4 testing site from Memorial Drive to West Conn's Westside campus.  Mayor Dean Esposito says testing will be done there through the 16th.  Large traffic tie ups and confusion on side streets were reported among people waiting in line at the old site. Testing will be done on a first come first serve basis during the week from 1pm to 7pm and on weekends from 10am to 2pm, or until capacity has been reached.

Area schools open with delayed start to assess staffing shortages

Region 14 schools, which serves Bethlehem and Woodbury, will be closed Monday due to the number of staff members who will be absent Monday because of COVID.

Region 9, Easton and Redding, will have a 2 hour delay

New Fairfield Public Schools have a 2-hour delay to allow time to assess staffing. Staff should report at their regularly scheduled time.

Wilton Public Schools will have a 2-hour delayed opening for students, Monday, January 3, to allow building administration to address anticipated staffing shortages in their buildings and prepare for those students who will need remote learning.

Due to staffing issues pertaining to COVID-19, Danbury schools will open on a two hour delay schedule. 

Superintendent Kevin Walston says morning Extended Learning Program and morning preschool will be canceled Monday. All staff will report at their normal time.  The CDC recently updated its guidance on quarantine and isolation duration, cutting it from 10 days to at least 5 days or longer if symptoms develop and persist. The State notified districts that they may use the revised CDC guidance due to the Omicron variant.  Danbury Public Schools will not continue individual routine contact tracing for inside schools, during school organized or supervised activities.  Positive cases in school, which includes notification to classrooms, grade or group level, athletic teams and clubs will continue. 

Some bus transportation will not be available for Monday due to staff shortages. The regular buses that are affected include: Bus 23, 41, 44, 57, 67, 76, 83 and Shepaug. The mini buses that are affected include: M15, M35, M41, and M43. Those buses will not run Monday. Students on those runs will need to be dropped off and picked up from school by a parent or guardian.

WCSU goes remote for first week back

As the Omicron variant surges, Western Connecticut State University will move to a temporary virtual schedule for this week.  The university’s Covid-19 Response Team will meet today to develop plans for the rest of January and the spring semester. Members of the police department and maintenance union will maintain their regular in-person schedules.  West Conn President Dr John Clark asked that everyone in the campus community who is physically able-- to obtain vaccinations as well as booster shots.  Anyone who is sick is asked not come to campus. Masks are mandatory on campus.

Redding, Ridgefield to distribute COVID-19 at home test kits

Ridgefield will distribute a thousand at home COVID test kits from the state this afternoon.  Distribution will happen at Yanity Gym from 4pm to 5pm.  Residents are asked to start the line forming from the Prospect Ridge to Governor Street entrance.  There is a limit of one test per adult, with a maximum of two adults per car.  Ridgefield officials asked that only those with symptoms or a known exposure pick up kits.  The town expects to receive more soon and will continue to distribute them as soon as they are on hand.

Redding has received 600 at home COVID test kits from the state.  Distribution will take place this afternoon from Redding Community Center between noon and 2pm, or while supplies last.  Up to two kits will be given to residents, who must show proof of residency. 

Area towns say at home COVID test kit distribution went smoothly, quick

The Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company worked in conjunction with Candlewood Company, Police, Emergency Management, The Health Department and the First Selectman in distributing at home Covid-19 tests from the State. Cars lined up starting at 8am and all of the test kits were distributed within an hour of opening up at 10:45.  The distribution site was forced to open early as traffic was becoming a safety issue.  In addition to the Tests, the majority of cars were given 2 KN95 masks, 6 surgical masks, and a 3 pack of hand sanitizer.

New Fairfield also distributed its share.  According to social media posts, all of the kits were distributed there within an hour.

Bethel First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says distribution in his town over the weekend went smoothly.

Former Bethel Police Officer loses battle with cancer

A former Bethel Police Department member has lost her battle with cancer. Officer Liberty Andreotto passed away on December 31st.  The 43 year old began her career with the Bethel Police Department as a civilian dispatcher in 1999 before becoming a police officer in 2001. In 2003 Andreotto transferred to the Records Department serving as Records Supervisor for several years before leaving Bethel to raise her two children.  Department officials say Andreotto was tremendously caring and will always be remembered for her radiant smile.  Donations may be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

Greater Danbury area municipalities to distribute limited COVID-19 at home test kits

The City of Danbury COVID-19 at home self-test kit distribution will take place on a first come first serve basis on Sunday January 2, 2022 between 3pm and 6pm, or while supplies last.  The drive thru distribution will be held at the Western Connecticut State University West Side Campus, 43 Lake Avenue Extension Danbury. Test kit quantities are well below the anticipated amounts so the very limited supply will be restricted to 1 kit per vehicle, Danbury residents only.

Bethel has received the first of what is hoped to be several shipments of COVID home test kits and N95 masks. Residents will be able to pick them up on Sunday, January 2nd.  Distribution is being limited to Bethel residents and frontline workers who work directly with the public that are having symptoms of COVID19 or had a known exposure to COVID19.  ID will be required to receive one test kit per household.  Distribution will be held at the Bethel High School “Junior Parking Lot” (directly across Whittlesey Drive from DeSantis Stadium beginning at 11am. 

Brookfield will distributed 760 test kits at Brookfield Town Hall on Sunday, January 2nd from noon to 1pm in the Town Hall Parking lot. Distribution is based on a first come, first served basis. Each household may have two boxes if necessary, but if only one is needed residents are asked to only take one in order to maximize the small allocation. There are two COVID tests per box.

New Fairfield has been allocated approximately 950 at home COVID-19 test kits containing two tests each.  The test kits will be distributed January 2 in front of the Middle School from 1pm to 4pm, or until supplies last.  Residents are asked to enter the campus via the driveway closest to Peerless Equipment and exit from the new west side driveway.  Proof of New Fairfield residency is required, and test kits will be limited to no more than two per household.

New Milford had residents sign up for a time to pick up the kits and anyone with a confirmed reservation will be contacted with a new date and time when more information is received.  The appointments for about 3600 kits were filled quickly.  New Milford residents will need to show proof of residency at pick up.  Only one test kit per household, unless there are minor children, will be distributed. 

Newtown officials required appointments for its share of at home COVID-19 test kits coming from the state.  Allocations will be made from Reed Intermediate School, up to two test kits per household with proof of residency and confirmed appointment.  Because that's a heavily traveled area, Newtown Police will be on Wasserman Way and Trades Lane to ensure no one is queuing up before the site opens.  Queing or waiting will also not be allowed on the Fairfield Hills campus. There was a sign-up/registration to obtain a test kit. 

Ridgefield will distribute kits on a first come, first served bases at a drive through location. To avoid false starts, the time and place for this distribution will not be announced until the test kits are in Ridgefield. Notification will be made through ridgefieldalerts.com.

Sherman will distribute rapid COVID-19 home test kits on Sunday, January 2, from 10 am until noon, or while supply lasts, at the Sherman School outside on the sidewalk by the front office. One kit per household. Proof of Sherman residence is required at the drive-thru pick-up. 

Sherman receives about half of expected COVID-19 test kit allocation

Rapid COVID-19 home test kits will be distributed on Sunday, January 2, from 10 am until noon, or while supply lasts, at the Sherman School outside on the sidewalk by the front office. One kit per household. Each kit contains 2 tests. Proof of Sherman residence is required at the drive-thru pick-up. Tests are for those needing results immediately.  The supply of 155 kits is about half of what was to be dispensed before. There is supposed to be another shipment for public distribution in the next 1 to 2 weeks. 

Ridgefield outlines uses for at home COVID-19 test kits

Ridgefield will received a limited supply of at home COVID-19 test kits.  Until the supply catches up with the demand, First Selectman Rudy Marconi and Health Director Ed Briggs urge residents to test only if needed. They note that test kits are intended for immediate use for those who are symptomatic or for testing 5-7 days after a known exposure.  The Ridgefield Health Department will supply a few kits to police, fire, DPS and emergency management supervisors to test on-duty personnel who show symptoms of COVID to prevent spread through these vital departments or to the public they serve. A distribution of all other kits received by the town will be made to the public on a first come, first served bases at a drive through location. To avoid false starts, the time and place for this distribution will not be announced until the test kits are in Ridgefield. Notification will be made through ridgefieldalerts.com.

New Fairfield to distribute test kits Sunday

New Fairfield has been allocated approximately 950 at home COVID-19 test kits containing two tests each.  The purpose of this distribution is to provide tests kits to be used this week to reduce the spread of the Omicron variant and to supplement existing testing.  It is possible that additional tests will be provided to municipalities and/or school districts later this month.  The test kits will be distributed January 2 in front of the Middle School from 1pm to 4pm, or until supplies last.  Residents are asked to enter the campus via the driveway closest to Peerless Equipment and exit from the new west side driveway.  Traffic is one way, and is marked with arrows.  Proof of New Fairfield residency is required, and test kits will be limited to no more than two per household.  The test kits are antigen tests used for screening and cannot be used to replace PCR testing that may be required by your employer or school. Tests will be distributed on a first come first served basis.

Brookfield to distribute COVID test kits Sunday

1,260 test kits have arrived in Brookfield, less than half of the original promised allocation.  Town officials are distributing 250 kits to essential personnel including Police, Firefighters, vaccine clinic volunteers, and Department of Public Works employees. 

760 kits will be distributed at Brookfield Town Hall on Sunday, January 2nd from noon to 1pm in the Town Hall Parking lot. Distribution is based on a first come, first served basis. Each household may have two boxes if necessary, but if only one is needed residents are asked to only take one in order to maximize the small allocation. There are two covid tests per box.

250 kits will be distributed to the schools since the state school shipment did not arrive. First Selectman Tara Carr says there may still be a full distribution for schools, but the thought and guidance from the state is that in the meantime, separating out a small supply from the municipal allotment for the schools to have on hand to be used "for school staff who are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms or who have had a known exposure to COVID-19", would be a prudent immediate mitigation measure to help curb potential outbreaks/transmission. 

Bethel receives first shipment of COVID test kits, masks

Bethel has received the first of what is hoped to be several shipments of COVID home test kits and N95 masks. Residents will be able to pick them up on Sunday, January 2nd.  The initial quantities are very limited, about half the number of test kits than originally expected.  Due to the limited supply, this distribution is being limited to Bethel residents and frontline workers who work directly with the public that are having symptoms of COVID19 or had a known exposure to COVID19.  ID will be required to receive one test kit per household.  Distribution will be held at the Bethel High School “Junior Parking Lot” (directly across Whittlesey Drive from DeSantis Stadium beginning at 11am.  Residents are asked to only use the Plumtrees Road entrance to the school campus and to wear a mask when picking up the test kit.  Residents are also asked not to queue up early. Bethel police will be on hand to ensure Plumtrees Drive and Whittlesey Drive remain open and accessible.

Danbury announces at-home COVID-19 test kit distribution info

The City of Danbury has taken delivery of COVID-19 at home self-test kits to distribute to residents.  Distribution will take place on a first come first serve basis on Sunday January 2, 2022 between 3pm and 6pm, or while supplies last.  The drive thru distribution will be held at the Western Connecticut State University West Side Campus, 43 Lake Avenue Extension Danbury. Test kit quantities are well below the anticipated amounts so the very limited supply will be restricted to 1 kit per vehicle, Danbury residents only.

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