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Local Headlines Archives for 2022-02

Police investigate arson at Newtown Community Center

An arson investigation is underway in Newtown.  Police are looking for the public's help in identifying a person of interest in connection with a fire at the Newtown Community Center last night. 

Newtown Hook & Ladder responded shortly before 6:30pm to a report of an odor of burning in the building.  Smoke was seen coming from a bathroom on the exterior of the building.  A trash can, with its contents burning, was located.  The fire was extinguished and the building ventilated. 

(Photo: Newtown Hook & Ladder)

Firefighters were on scene for little more than an hour. 

The person of interest is described as a clean shaven white male, 20 to 30 years old.  Anyone with any information is asked to contact Det. Monckton at (203) 270-4239.

Counterfeit money used at New Milford store

Counterfeit money has been used at a store in New Milford.  Police are asking to the public's help in identifying the individuals who used the bogus bills to purchased numerous items from TJ Maxx on Thursday.  Photos have been posted to the New Milford Police Facebook page.  Anyone able to identify the individuals is asked to contact Officer McIntyre at 860-355-3133 or DMcintyre@newmilfordpolice.org.

COVID-19 vaccine clinics scheduled in Danbury today

Pediatric COVID-19 vaccines will be administered at several Danbury schools this afternoon.  This is for kids 5 to 11, including second doses, and boosters for children 12 and older, with parental permission.  The clinics are from 4pm to 7 at Hayestown Avenue Elementary, Stadley Rough Elementary and Danbury Primary Center, in Brookfield.

A walk-up COVID-19 vaccination clinic is being held in Danbury this afternoon. No appointment is needed and all three vaccine brands will be available.  The clinic is at Pembroke Elementary from 4pm to 7pm.

Connecticut's daily COVID_19 test positivity rate on Friday was 2.55 percent.  423 cases were detected out of more than 16,500 tests.  There were 13 fewer patients in the hospital with lab confirmed COVID than on Thursday.  Of the 235 patients with COVID, 48% are not fully vaccinated.

Congressional proclamation celebrates Marian Anderson's 125th birthday

5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes has issued a proclamation celebrating Marian Anderson’s 125th birthday yesterday.  A Zoom event was co-sponsored by the Danbury NAACP, Danbury Museum and Historical Society, Danbury Library, and the Waterbury Chapter of The Links, Incorporated.

Danbury High School enrollment continues to climb

The Danbury Board of Education has gotten new enrollment statistics showing Danbury High School is just over the building capacity.  Enrollment is at 3,390, but capacity is 3,370.  The districts anticipates more students next academic year.  Starting with the Class of 2023, high school graduates must earn 25 credits, rather than 21.  Danbury High School Principal Dan Donovan says they switched this academic year to an eight-period day from a seven-period to meet the requirement, but some students had to be placed in extra study halls because there aren’t enough courses available.  Due to continued growing enrollment, school counselors also have about 300 students each, when the recommendation is 250.

Danbury Planning Commission considers application for self-storage facility

The Danbury Planning Commission is considering an application for a self-storage facility off Great Pasture Road at the Bethel border.  A 48,000-square-foot enclosed self-storage building, with security measures and a Bluetooth enabled access system, is being proposed on 1.5 acres.  The three-story climate-controlled storage building would have 470 rental rooms, ranging in size from 25-to-200 square feet.  The $2 million project calls for demolishing all but one of the buildings on the property.   The house would be reduced by half and converted into an office.  Ethan Draped told the Commission that 8 of the 10 nearby existing self-storage facilities are at 100 percent capacity.  He was asked to come back to the Planning Commission with more details about parking and precautions to protect the floodplain.  A wetland permit has already been approved.

Firefighters hold annual ice rescue drill in Newtown

Newtown Hook & Ladder was out on Eichlers Cove yesterday.  They did their annual ice rescue drill with the members of Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire & Rescue.  Officials say drills with mutual aid departments allows firefighters to train with members they interact with on scene. Applied Rescue Techniques ran the class.

3 vehicles damaged in commuter lot crash

Three vehicles in the Exit 2 commuter lot in Danbury were damaged Thursday night during a car accident.  A 30-year-old Waterbury man drove off the westbound I-84 ramp, crashing into two parked, unoccupied vehicles.  The driver and his 31-year old passenger were transported to the hospital for treatment of suspected minor injuries.  The driver was issued an infraction for failure to maintain lane.  All three vehicles were towed form the scene.

Ice missiles damage windshields in Greater Danbury area

A number of smashed and damaged windshields were reported in the Greater Danbury area on Saturday.  Brookfield Police are reminding drivers that Connecticut state law requires motorists to remove accumulated ice or snow, including the hood, trunk, and roof before the vehicle is operated on any street or highway. 

In one incident, a driver was able to get safely off the road and into a parking lot on Federal Road by the exit 12 ramps off Super 7. 

(Photo: Brookfield Police)

Brookfield Police say it might now look like much accumulation, but it’s all frozen and comes off in giant sheets, creating a dangerous situation.  The offender returned after noticing what happened. 

Newtown Police also reported several incidents of flying debris.  

Not clearing the commercial or non-commercial vehicle could result in a $75 fine. 

If the snow or ice is dislodged and causes personal injury or property damage, the fine is $200 to $1,000 for each offense.  Commercial fines range from $500 to $1250 dollars for each offense.

Putnam County Sheriff K-9 in the running for a grant

The Hometown Foundation is offering grants to law enforcement agencies and their K-9 Units.  The organization is offering grants of $15,000 worth of equipment to K-9 Units who have exemplified commitment to their communities by protecting and serving. The funding will be awarded through public voting through today. 

Among those up for a grant is Putnam County Sheriff's Office K-9 Flash, a 4-year old certified tracking canine and a scent discriminating bloodhound.  If awarded a grant, the Putnam County Sheriff's Department plans to purchase thermal imaging cameras for the K-9 Unit.

(Photo: Hometown Foundation)

K-9 Flash has been involved in numerous successful finds over the years.  He's investigated several cases where a member of the community is intent on harming themselves and refuse to engage in dialogue with responding officers. On these occasions, K-9 Flash has helped these individuals in crisis.  K-9 Flash and his handler regularly visit local schools to promote positive interactions between the children and the police.  They are also ambassadors for the Sheriff's Department Project Lifesaver Program, which provides body-worn radio transmitters to vulnerable populations within the community who are prone to wandering behaviors. 

K-9 Flash averages about 4-5 callouts a month to neighboring jurisdictions and are more frequently utilized within Putnam County to search for criminal suspects, missing or endangered persons, and lost hikers. 

Car fire on I-84 in Danbury extinguished

A car fire on the highway blocked part of I-84 in Danbury on Saturday.  The Danbury Fire Department was called to the area of Exit 4 and quickly extinguished the flames.  State Police kept most of the highway open, but at reduced speed and lanes. The driver was uninjured, and the Fire Marshals Office is investigating the cause.  The Fire Department is reminding motorists to  slow down, and move away from the lane the emergency workers are operating in when approaching an emergency on the highway.

Bethel firefighters extinguish fire at UConn Agricultural Extension Center

An activated fire alarm at the UConn Agricultural Extension Center, next door to Stony Hill Volunteer Fire Company, brought in emergency responders early Saturday morning.  The Bethel Police Department investigated the locked building from outside, but could see smoke and fire inside. 

The incident was redispatched as a structure fire, bringing in a rapid intervention team from Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company.  Firefighters forced entry through a rear door and located a fluorescent light fixture burning in a hallway ceiling as well as the carpet below. A fire extinguisher knocked down most of the flames.

Crews opened up the ceiling checking for any more fire and found the fire was held to the immediate area surrounding the light fixture.

Stony Hill officials say if it weren't for the functioning, monitored fire alarm system, this would have been a much different outcome.  There were no injuries.

New Milford to make masks optional on school buses

A recent change to CDC orders has been announced involving school transportation.  Effective immediately, students are no longer required to wear masks on buses or vans operated by public or private school systems, including early care and education/child care programs.  New Milford Public Schools will no longer require mask-wearing on school transportation. Mask wearing is now optional.  This comes as the district is set to have masks optional in the classroom as well.

New Fairfield School Superintendent retiring

New Fairfield's School Superintendent is retiring.  Pat Cosentino says her last day will be June 30th.  She has served in the position for 4 years. Cosentino began her career in education 38 years ago as a teacher at a Catholic school in Queens, New York.  She then became an assistant principal in a New York City Public School, associate principal at Bridgeport’s Columbus School and as principal at schools in Queens and in Bethel.  Cosentino served as superintendent of Bridgewater, Roxbury and Washington’s Region 12 starting in 2012, continuing for six years.

Eversource looks to do maintenance on tower in Bethel

Eversource is looking to do some maintenance on a tower in Bethel off Plumtrees Road.  They asked for a temporary access permit.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker proposed that a temporary easement be approved, as long as the town attorney and Planning and Zoning sign off on the utility's plans for the site.  He added that they must also hold a pre-construction meeting with Planning & Zoning officials.  This involves several pieces of private property, including a parcel owned by the town.  Selectman Bryan Terzian called for them to hold off on the matter and he and planning officials have some lingering questions.  Attorney Martin Lawlor says he's working on some wording in the easement to hold the utility accountable for restoring the site to the condition they found it in. Lawlor says they want to do a pre construction walk to make sure they know exactly what's going to change on the property ahead of time.

Himes visits sites in Ridgefield, Redding

4th District Congressman Jim Himes visited the Ridgefield Theatre Barn Thursday.  The local community theater venue received an 80-thousand dollar grant last year from the Small Business Association's Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program. Himes was joined by State Representative Aimee Berger-Girvalo and State Senator Julie Kushner.

The Director of Putnam Memorial State Park and the President of the Friends and Neighbors of the park led a tour of the Redding site for Himes this week.  He says a recent federal grant of more than 46-thousand dollars will bolster tourism and accessibility at the is historic landmark.  This site housed 3,000 Revolutionary War soldiers in 1778 and 1779 and the encampment played an indispensable strategic role for the Continental Army, allowing soldiers to protect the Hudson River Valley and Long Island Sound.

Himes also took a tour this week of the Ridgefield wastewater improvement project. The project is partially funded by  2-point-9 million dollars from the American Rescue Plan. It will allow the town to construct a new pump station, meet new environmental standards and reduce long-term costs.  Himes was joined by First Selectman Rudy Marconi and others.

COVID-19 data for Greater Danbury area updated by Conn. DPH

According to the latest COVID-19 data from the state Department of Public Health, Danbury reported 98 cases in the last two weeks. Bethel has had 34 cases, there were 28 COVID cases in Brookfield, and New Fairfield reported 11.  There were 34 COVID cases in New Milford, 55in Newtown, Redding reported 18cases in the last two weeks while Ridgefield had 42. 

Case rates for the week ending February 19th range from 5.7 to 14.1, down from 10.3 to 33.5 per 100,000 population the week before. The lowest case rate is in New Fairfield and the highest is in Redding, based on population.    

The rates are:

New Fairfield 5.7

Danbury 8.3

New Milford 9.1

Brookfield 11.8

Ridgefield 12

Bethel 12.36

Newtown 14.1

Redding 14.1

COVID-19 infection rates for the Greater Danbury area range from 2.8 percent to 6.6 percent, down from 4.8 percent to 11.4 percent last week.  The lowest test positivity is in New Fairfield and the highest is in Redding.  At home COVID-19 test results are not reported to the state.  The rates are:

New Fairfield 2.8 percent 

Ridgefield 3.3 percent

New Milford 4.1 percent 

Danbury 4.2 percent 

Newtown 4.5 percent

Bethel 5.2 percent

Brookfield 5.4 percent

Redding 6.6 percent

The number COVID-associated deaths has grown by 119 since last Thursday.  The state is also reporting a breakthrough rate of COVID-19 infections among the state's fully vaccinated population of 6.44 percent. 

New state data released Thursday show there were 458 positive COVID cases reported to the state since Wednesday out of more than 11,000 tests.  The daily positivity rate was just under 4 percent.  The number of COVID hospitalizations dropped by 7, for a total of 248.  51.2-percent of those patients are not fully vaccinated. 

More than 3 million first doses of a COVID-19 vaccine have been administered in Connecticut.  The only age group in the state to increase their vaccination rate over last week is the 25 to 34 year old cohort, up 1 percent to 89-percent of that population with at least one dose.

Connecticut remains 4th in the nation when it comes to the percentage of the state's population fully vaccinated against COVID-19 at 77.7 percent.  Rhode Island is first with 80.5 percent followed by Vermont at 80.1 percent, and then Maine at 78.3 percent.  Massachusetts round out the top 5 at 77.5 percent fully vaccinated. 

Office manager at Mahopac business charged with Grand Larceny

A New York man has been arrested on a charge of grand larceny.  A Southeast resident reported to the Putnam County Sheriff's Department that he mailed a check on January 3rd to a Mahopac business for a service rendered. 

His bank said the check was cashed by someone other than the business. 

The suspect, who's name was not immediately released, was an office manager at the business.  The Sheriff's Office says the man stole several customer payment checks and altered the invoices, marking them paid.  The suspect allegedly used his girlfriend's bank account to deposit the checks and withdrew the money for personal use.

He was also charged with falsifying business records and released without bail for a court appearance on Monday.

Fire company in New Milford gets underwater drone

Water Witch Hose Company of New Milford has a new FiFish Underwater Drone.  The fire company says once in service it will help in water rescues and recoveries to meet the growing needs of the entire region.  Firefighters have spent the past several weeks training with the underwater drone in a pool.  The drone's onboard camera can broadcast its view and navigation to the operator as well as command staff on shore.  The technology was paid for with federal American Rescue Plan Act dollars allocated by the Town of New Milford. 

Longhorn Steakhouse opens in Danbury

Longhorn Steakhouse has opened in Danbury.  It's located in the parking lot at the entry to the mall campus, next to the newly opened Shake Shack.  Danbury Fair General Manager Maura Ruby says there's strong demand recently for in-person experiences.  The mall has more than 1.2 million square feet of space and is one of New England’s largest shopping centers. 

Danbury lawmakers recognized by Connecticut League of Conservation Voters

Danbury state lawmakers are being recognized by the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters for their work last session.  State Representatives Bob Godfrey, Ken Gucker, David Arconti and Raghib Allie-Brennan received a perfect score of 100 on the 2021 Environmental Scorecard.

Godfrey says it's become critically important, in the challenging era of climate change, to address clean air, clean water, and clean soil.  Arconti says he's proud of the work on environmental issues critical to the long-term goal of preserving and protecting the planet. 

Gucker wants to continue to fight for legislation that will protect lakes and parks for future generations. 

Allie-Brennan says he was particularly proud to introduce An Act Concerning the Commercial Property Assessed Clean Energy Program, which offers businesses a tool to pay for zero-emission vehicle infrastructure and resiliency measures, to address the climate crisis. 

The Scorecard wasn't produced in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Allie Brennan, Godfrey and Gucker received scores of 100 in 2019. Arconti notched a score of 90 percent.

Decision on masks in Danbury schools to be made next month

The Danbury Board of Ed will likely make a decision on masks in schools when they meet on March 23rd.  Superintendent Kevin Walston has asked the Policy Committee to meet on March 16th to make a recommendation in time for the Board's next full meeting.  The Policy Committee meeting tentatively has been scheduled as a virtual meeting via zoom at 6:30pm on the 16th.  Between now and then, Walston says the administration will review the recently released state guidance, re-evaluate spacing and ventilation in classrooms, and look at considerations for students with underlying health conditions.  Board chairwoman Rachel Chaleski noted that a pediatrician recently weighed in and noted that the final second dose pediatric vaccine clinic is scheduled for March 8th, so kids t to 11 years old would be fully vaccinated by March 22nd.

COVID-19 infections in Greater Danbury area continue to decline

Due to the storm, COVID-19 testing in Danbury at 23 Memorial Drive is cancelled. Testing will resume tomorrow, from 9am to 3pm.

Danbury has reported 98 COVID-19 cases to the state Department of Public Health in the last two weeks ending February 19th.  The case rate has been cut by more than half from last week and is down to 8.3  cases per 100,000 population.  Danbury has a test positivity rate of 4.2 percent, down from 6.7 percent the week before. 

Most of the Greater Danbury area is out of the Red zone for COVID-19 community spread. Bethel, Brookfield, Newtown, Southbury, Redding, Ridgefield and Weston dropped into the Orange zone, with 10 to 14 cases per 100,000 people in the last two weeks.  Moving down into the Yellow zone, with 5 to 9 cases per 100,000 population are Danbury, New Fairfield, New Milford and Woodbury.  Kent and Wilton are among the 87 municipalities still in Red zone with 15 or more cases per 100,000 population over the last two weeks. 

Task Force on Homelessness formed in Danbury

A Task Force on Homelessness has been formed in Danbury. 17 community leaders will focus on finding short-term and long-term solutions for the cities’ homeless population needs.  Mayor Dean Esposito says they will help determine the best direction forward and looks forward to hearing their recommendations in the coming weeks.  Robert Botelho of Victorian Associates will serve as Chair.  Ari Rosenberg of ARC will serve as Vice Chair. The Task Force will look at a variety of issues including chronic homelessness, episodic homelessness, and transitional homelessness.  The gubernatorial executive order about congregate settings during the pandemic was extended by the legislature until April 15th.  Danbury closed the City-run New Street shelter at the start of the pandemic, and when Pacific House formally bought the Super 8 motel, the nonprofit took over services for the homeless from the City.  Danbury is being sued by Pacific House over the Zoning Commission's rejection of an application for an 86-room shelter with emergency and supportive housing units.  

Danbury, Wilton residents nominated to fill vacancies as judges in Conn.

22 Connecticut residents are being nominated to fill vacancies as judges on the Connecticut Superior Court. The court currently has 59 vacancies.  The nominations, which are being forwarded to the Connecticut General Assembly for its consideration, include 55-year old Wendy Grispin of Danbury and 43-year old Joseph Vizcarrondo III of Wilton. 

Grispin graduated from Western Connecticut State University and obtained her Juris Doctor degree from Pace University School of Law. She is currently a member of Grispin & Chan, LLC. She has been practicing law since 1993 and has devoted her practice entirely to litigation matters. Her primary practice areas include criminal (adult and juvenile), personal injury, and family law (divorce, custody, and parenting) matters. She has been a member of the Statewide Grievance Committee since 2018, served as an attorney trial referee and judicial fact finder since 2014, and as a special master since 2007. 

Vizcarrondo graduated from Wesleyan University and obtained his Juris Doctor degree from Columbia Law School. He is an Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, where he began as a special assistant in 2011. He returned to the United States Attorney’s Office in 2016 after serving as an assistant district attorney in Manhattan, where he investigated and prosecuted financial fraud and organized crime. He is currently responsible for supervising investigations and prosecutions of federal law, including violent crime and narcotics trafficking. Prior to his service as a federal and state prosecutor, he practiced general commercial litigation at the New York office of Mintz Levin. He also served as a law clerk to the Honorable Roslynn R. Mauskopf, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of New York.

Danbury, New Milford declare Snow Emergencies

New Milford has declared a snow emergency. Alternate parking is available behind Town Hall, the Patriots Way lot and at the Richmond Center along the rear fence. Danbury has declared a Level 1 Snow Emergency.  Parking is prohibited on city streets.  The Patriot Garage is open free of charge to accommodate those who need space to comply with this weather emergency.  Cars parked on City streets may be ticketed and towed.  After the storm, everyone with a sidewalk in front of their property must clear snow and ice from the walkway within 4 hours of daylight after the end of the storm.  Sidewalks, according to City ordinance, should not be cleared into the street. 

Putnam County Officials monitoring today's storm

Putnam County Officials are monitoring today's storm.  County Executive MaryEllen Odell says the Highway Department pre-treated roads and emergency first responders have taken the necessary steps to ensure they can continue to respond to emergencies.  NYSEG reports that it has brought in additional crews and are prepared to respond.  Residents are reminded that to report a power outage or downed wires you should call the utility company.  Anyone using a generator should not operate it in an enclosed space, even with a window or door open. This includes inside the home, basement or garage. Doing so can lead to a potentially lethal build-up of colorless, odorless, poisonous carbon monoxide gas.

New Milford man arrested for allegedly operating a drug factory

New Milford Police have arrested a convicted felon and on parole for allegedly operating a drug factory.  Officers, along with the Connecticut State Police State Wide Narcotics Task Force, carried out a search warrant yesterday at a Danbury Road home.  This followed a lengthy investigation into the distribution of crack cocaine, allegedly by 37-year old James Anderson. 

Detectives seized 155.5 grams of marijuana, 6.6 grams of crystal meth, numerous Clonazepam pills and a fully loaded Smith and Wesson 9mm pistol with an extended magazine. 

Anderson was charged with operation of a drug factory, possession of drug paraphernalia, possession with intent to sell, criminal possession of a firearm, alteration of a firearm identification mark and criminal possession of ammunition.  Anderson was held on $500,000 bond for a court appearance today.

Local lawmaker touts hearing on mental health system overhaul

A local lawmaker is calling on residents to testify Friday on a bill dealing with an overhaul of the mental health system in Connecticut.  The Public Health Committee and the Committee on Children will hold a joint public hearing at 9am on An Act Concerning Children's Mental Health.  Bethel State Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan says this is a comprehensive piece of legislation encompassing schools, healthcare settings, insurance eligibility, screening tools, and more.  He says there was a rise in depression, anxiety, self-harm, and other forms of distress in young people prior to the pandemic, but the  increased isolation and uncertainty in the past two years has exacerbated this issue.
Bill highlights: https://tinyurl.com/4tfx9n89

Stony Hill firefighters respond to crash, overturned vehicle

Stony Hill Volunteer Fire Company responded to 3 incidents Tuesday evening, including a head on collision on Stony Hill Road in front of the Best Western.  Two people were transported to Danbury Hospital for treatment of injuries. 

Yesterday afternoon, firefighters responded to an overturned vehicle in the Target parking lot.  The driver was able to get out on their own, was evaluated by EMS and refused transport to the hospital.  Firefighters worked to mitigate an oil spill at the scene.

(Photos: SHVFD)

COVID-19 vaccine clinics in Newtown, Danbury today

Mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics are being held in the Greater Danbury area this afternoon.  All three brands will be available at the state Department of Public Health/Griffin Health clinic at NYA Sports and Fitness Center in Newtown from 3pm to 7pm.  Griffin will be administering pediatric COVID-19 vaccinations at Great Plain Elementary in Danbury from 4pm to 7.  This is for kids 5 to 11 with parental permission. Booster doses will also be available for children 12 and older. 

Congressman releases statement statement on Russian invasion of Ukraine

4th District Congressman Jim Himes, a member of the Intelligence Committee, has released a statement on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.  He says Vladimir Putin has chosen to violate international law and ignore the warnings of the United States, NATO, and the community of free nations. Himes says this decision will bring terrible consequences for him and his supporters in the form of sanctions and other crippling measures. Himes called on Putin to immediately withdraw all troops or risk an escalation in consequences that he says will not end well for him or his regime.  Himes is also Chair of the National Security, International Development and Monetary Policy Subcommittee of the House Financial Services Committee.

Fairfield County's Community Foundation hosting annual Giving Day

Fairfield County’s Community Foundation is hosting their annual Giving Day.  Nonprofits benefit from donations made during this fundraising campaign, including WestConn's Department of Athletics & Recreation.  More than 700 students participate in both intercollegiate athletics and club sports.  Some of the funding will go toward travel for elite competitive opportunities and continue community service efforts

Among them is also DAWS, Danbury Animal Welfare Society.  DAWS is getting ready to break ground on a long-awaited renovation project to build a more modern facility that enables the organization to expand rescue and adoption, clinic services, and educational programs.  In 2021, DAWS was able to help 1,000 pets find their forever homes.

Meals on Wheels of Ridgefield is hoping to raise $5,000 this year, so they can continue to provide meals to those in need.  In 2021, Meals on Wheels delivered a record 43,890 meals to anyone in Ridgefield who is unable to prepare their own meals, whether due to age, illness, disability or while recovering from surgery.  All of the meals are prepared from scratch using fresh ingredients in their commercial kitchen in Ballard Green.  The program has 5 part-time employees and over 160 volunteers who prepare, package and deliver the meals.  A 16 dollar donation would feed one client for a day.  

Danbury Police seek help investigating burglary

Danbury Police are investigating a burglary and asking for the public's help in identifying the suspect.  The man was seen in front of Food Bag on Main Street around 5am on February 12th.  Several vehicles were seen purchasing gas and may have interacted with him. Photos of the suspect have been posted on the Danbury Police Facebook page.  Anyone with information as to his identity is asked to contact Detective Perun at R.Perun@danbury-ct.gov. Anonymous tips can be made at 203-790-TIPS.

Newtown Police to launch database to aid in investigations

The Newtown Police Department is launching a new crime prevention initiative. The department is looking to collaborate with residents and business owners with external security cameras who are willing to, voluntarily, share that information with Police.  Department officials say this will give them another way to gather information on crimes and other incidents. 

Most investigations require door-to-door canvases, but many times homeowners or the employee in charge of the camera systems is not available at that time, but this database will help Police contact owners in a timelier manner and see if there is video evidence they could provide.

The database would consist of basic information such as how many cameras are on the property, do they capture any part of the roadway and if they record based on motion or are constantly on.  All of the information will be kept confidential and used for official police purposes only. The registered person will only be contacted in the event an incident happens in their area and police need further information.

Newtown police will not have direct use of the camera system or access to any video footage.

The registration form can be found on the town's at https://www.newtown-ct.gov/newtown-police-department  Any questions can be directed to Ofc. Stephanie McDermott at (203) 426-5841 or Stephanie.Mcdermott@newtown-ct.gov

Public hearing scheduled in Danbury on elderly homeowner tax freeze

A public hearing has been scheduled in Danbury on the proposed Tax Freeze For Elderly Homeowners.  The City Council will hold the hearing on February 28th at 7pm in Council Chambers of City Hall.  Members of the Council will meet as a committee of the whole immediately following the public hearing.  The state law allows towns to freeze property taxes on homes owned by people age 70 or older who have lived in the state at least one year. The freeze can also apply to a surviving spouse who is at least age 62 when the homeowner dies.

New Milford Schools host COVID test kit distribution ahead of mask mandate lifting

As the New Milford school district prepares for the transition to optional mask wearing, as of March 1st, Superintendent Alisha DiCorpo notes that classroom and cafeteria partitions will stay in place until at least after the April break.

Teachers will hold discussions with students today about the change and the community expectations and DiCorpo asked parents to help honor choice in schools. 

The State Department of Public Health is recommending that all students and staff who have not tested positive in the past 90 days take a home COVID-19 test prior to February 28th as part of the shift to an endemic management approach. A negative test result does not need to be shared, however, anyone who tests positive is asked contact the school’s administration or school nurse. 

New Milford is offering free COVID-19 home test kits for students today from 4pm to 6pm at Sarah Noble Intermediate School.  Parents or guardians can drive up to the back cafeteria door to receive 2 kits.  The State also plans to distribute another round of test kits for both students and staff this Friday, weather permitting. Students will be required to wear masks on buses, per the Transportation Authority, until further notice.

Newtown Community Center makes pitch for ARPA funds

The Newtown American Rescue Plan Working Group is continuing to review requests for possible uses of the town's $7.5 million share of federal pandemic relief funds.  They heard earlier this month from the Newtown Community Center.  Executive Director Matt Ariniello says there are a number of capital projects they are looking to complete.  While the new facility was meant to be self-sustaining, they just gained momentum when the pandemic hit due to a forced closure, and then later to capacity restrictions and event cancellations. 

Their top priority is $155,000 to complete its patio project.  There is a foundation, with water line, lighting and gas line. 

Next on their priority list is a splash pad.  The cost is estimated at $400,000, but the Friends of the Newtown Community Center would foot half the bill.  First Selectman Dan Rosenthal asked that the fundraising be completed before ARPA funds are designated.  Plans for a splash pad were removed from the Center's original plans, though water lines were installed with the expectation of the project being done later on. 

Other funding requests included $75,000 each toward a storage shed and for a generator. 

When the Center was built, General Electric provided a $5 million endowment.  $3.7 million is left, but Ariniello says they are trying to save as much as possible for expensive capital projects and cover any budget shortfalls.

Easton, Redding, Region 9 Board of Ed makes masks optional

The Easton, Redding and Region 9 Board of Education has voted to no longer require masks as of March 1st.  The unanimous vote at the tri-board meeting Tuesday night followed an hour long discussion.  The Board's statement says that public health conditions have changed, and the terms of the previous policy are obsolete so the portion on masks will be suspended until August 15th, or further action from the board.  Masks are still required on school buses under a federal mandate.  Superintendent Jason McKinnon can enforce a mask mandate under state law until the boards rescind or pass a new mandate on the matter.

Parents, students speak out on masks at Danbury Board of Ed meeting

The Danbury Board of Education held a meeting last night and right off the bat chairman Rachel Chaleski told those gathered that they would not be discussing or voting on the future of masks in schools.  A couple of dozen people spoke during the public comment portion of the meeting.  About 15 people, including some from neighboring towns, spoke out calling for masks to be optional when the state mandate ends.

Some of the speakers were students, who said they have a hard time hearing their teachers, struggle to breath during gym activities and are uncomfortable because of the ear loops.  A few of the parents speaking out last night noted that masks are not required at indoor locations elsewhere in the City so students are unmasked outside of school.  One parent suggested that staff not kids be masked if there's a concern about COVID-19 transmission, based on the age of people impacted by the virus.

The state mandate is expected to be lifted on Monday, and then the decision on whether or not to require masks will be up to local Boards of Ed.  The state Departments of Education and Public Health issued guidance last week for local Boards to consider when deciding on whether or not to continuing requiring masks in schools when the state mandate expires.

New President, CEO named for The Center for Empowerment and Education

The Center for Empowerment and Education, formerly known as the Women's Center of Greater Danbury, is getting a new President and CEO.  Pat Zachman is retiring effective Monday.  Ashley Dunn has been appointed as her successor.  She was most recently Executive Director and CEO of Almost Home, a non-profit organization in Colorado which provides Emergency Assistance programs and services to households at risk of, or experiencing, homelessness. While there, Dunn initiated the first domestic violence programming in the region. Previously, she served as Vice President, Housing Stabilization Programs, at Way Finders, where she administered prevention, diversion, and housing stabilization programs for the homeless population in Springfield, Massachusetts. 

Danbury Fire Department marks anniversary of Line of Duty deaths

The Danbury Fire Department has released a statement marking the 40th anniversary of the line of duty deaths of two members.  On the night of February 23rd 1982,  Lt. Martin "Butch" Melody and Fire Fighter Joseph Halas made the ultimate sacrifice and lost their lives while battling a fire at the Russo Fur Company on Osborne Street.  They are the only members of the Department to Die In The Line of Duty.  Officials say the pair will live on in their hearts and memories forever.

COVID-19 vaccine clinics in Danbury, New Fairfield today

Walk-up COVID-19 vaccination clinics are being held in the Greater Danbury area today. No appointment is needed and all state Department of Public Health Griffin Health Mobile vans can administer all vaccine brands.  The clinics today are in New Fairfield at St Edwards until 6pm and in Danbury at Wooster School from 4pm to 7pm. 

A pediatric COVID-19 vaccine clinic is being held in Danbury this afternoon.  Children 5 to 11, with parental permission, can receive a vaccine at Rogers Park from 3pm to 7.  Booster doses will also be available for children 12 and older, with parental permission. 

There was no change in the number of people in Connecticut hospitals with lab confirmed COVID-19 yesterday from the day before. Of the 261 patients 49-percent are not fully vaccinated.  Connecticut's daily COVID-19 test positivity rate yesterday stood at 3.51 percent.  There were 338 cases detected out of about 9,600 tests reported to the state Department of Public Health.

DOT crafting 5 Year Capital Plan

The Connecticut Department of Transportation is in the process of crafting a 5 Year Capital Plan.  Bethel state Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan says the DOT is  holding a public information session at 7 o'clock tonight for residents to learn more about the transportation projects that may advance in the community.  The DOT will also accept input and feedback. The projects and programs are focused on reducing greenhouse gas emission, protecting natural and community resources and improving the health and safety of residents.


Review the Capital Plan here: tinyurl.com/2s4yb5nn
Register here:  tinyurl.com/2p9fpwun

Informational forum in Kent tonight on housing

An informational forum is being held in Kent tonight on housing.  The Kent Housing Plan Steering Committee is in the process of drafting Affordable Housing plans.  The Zoom meeting is at 7pm.  Registration for this meeting is required and a zoom link will be emailed to those who sign up at https://conta.cc/3rzv5i6.  The Steering Committee also has two online surveys, one about resident housing needs and a housing survey for those who work in Kent.  https://conta.cc/3gAw1fQ and https://conta.cc/3BctMsM.

Monroe's new Police Chief to be sworn in Friday

Captain Keith White will be sworn in as Monroe’s next Chief of Police on Friday, at 4pm in Council Chambers of Town Hall.  The public is invited to attend.  The 27-year veteran of the Monroe Police Department was selected for the position by the Board of Police Commissioners, following a recommendation by a personnel search committee.  White will become Monroe’s fifth police chief, following the retirement of current Chief John Salvatore.

HRRA billboard contest deadline approaching

The Housatonic Resources Recovery Authority Billboard Contest deadline to turn in artwork is Friday.  The 2022 theme is “Recycle Your Food Scraps! Compost!” Students are creating a billboard ad that will encourage the community to compost. Redding Highway department has a drop off box at the front door for Redding students.  Last year's HRRA Grand Prize Winner was Maddie Rapko, a 12th Grader from Weston High School.  Artwork was displayed for two months on 10 HARTbuses throughout the region from May to June.

The Center for Empowerment and Education's President to retire

After more than 29 years, the President and CEO of The Center for Empowerment and Education, formerly known as the Women's Center of Greater Danbury is retiring.  During her tenure, Pat Zachman grew the staff three-fold, while increasing the operating budget six-fold. The organization completed two successful campaigns to purchase a new residential facility for women and children in transition, which was recently opened with no mortgage.  The Center's services were enlarged to cover anyone in need, 24 hours a day, and satellite service sites were established to better assist those throughout a 13-town radius. In 2009, The Center formally partnered with Western Connecticut State University to provide domestic violence and sexual assault direct and educational services to the entire campus community. 

OSHA, EEO complaints filed against Danbury FCI

A complaint has been filed with the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Equal Employment Opportunity Office by a Danbury Federal Correctional Institute employee.   Shaun Boylan, a financial program specialist and  vice president of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1661 filed the complaint February 11th. 

He claims to have been repeatedly retaliated against for engaging in union activities, including a tour organized for Connecticut's two U.S. Senators and members of the state legislative delegation.  Hearst Connecticut Media reports that the complaint says that Boylan feels inmates will hear his supervisor telling employees she is investigating him and that criminal charges are pending against him, putting his life and physical safety in jeopardy. 

A Bureau of Prisons spokesperson says the agency is committed to instituting policies, procedures, and principles that foster the achievement of the Equal Employment Opportunity mission and workplaces free of harassment and discrimination.

Following the abruptly ended abbreviated tour by Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal earlier this month, an Occupational Safety and Health Administration complaint was filed.  An anonymous employee alleges a toxic work environment and infrastructure problems that could put staff and inmates at risk for physical injury.  The Senators were told by prison officials that they couldn't enter several areas, some of which are now the subject of the OSHA complaint. 

A Bureau of Prisons spokesperson says the allegations are being reviewed and investigated. 

The complaint involves standing sewage and water in tunnels where employees work; steam condensation shorting out electrical panels; uncovered electrical boxes; leaks in the inmate housing area; and a lack of snow and ice removal on walkways that allegedly caused an employee to fall and break a leg. OSHA sent to the document to the prison’s warden, Jennifer McGettigan, who must conduct her own investigation of the hazards and provide remedies or a plan for remedies to OSHA.

Historic clock to remain on Main Street in Ridgefield

An historic clock in Ridgefield, which hasn't worked for the past decade, will stay where it is on Main Street.  The Rotary Club of Ridgefield asked the Board of Selectmen about restoring the clock, and also proposed relocating it to a more prominent location.  The Board has decided it will remain as is.  The clock was put up in December of 1958 by the American Women’s Voluntary Services, a group active during World War II providing rides to people who helped with the war effort such as  military personnel, blood donors and canning drive workers. Selectwoman Barbara Manners said during the board meeting that a lot of people feel attached to the clock where it is now.  Selectman Bob  Hebert says many people have expressed interest in seeing it restored.  The estimated cost of repairing the clock’s internal wiring, according to the Rotary, is 22-thousand dollars.  The Rotary also wants to get an evaluation on the structural integrity of the pedestal.

Monroe budget proposed

Monroe First Selectman Ken Kellogg has proposed a budget with a 3.2 percent increase.  The proposed Board of Ed budget includes a 4.75 percent increase.  The  projected tax rate increase is 1.84 percent.  While the pandemic has subsided, he notes that it continues to create budgetary pressures. Increased costs of supplies and services due to vendor supply chain challenges, labor shortages, and significant surges in fuel costs are directly impacting Monroe.  Kellogg says this, along with contractual wage increases and the anticipated escalation in healthcare insurance premiums, are major cost drivers. These factors are also impacting the school system, which also has increased enrollment. Using American Rescue Plan Act grant funds, in concert with motor vehicle grand list growth that is likely temporary, allows for flexibility in funding projects for this upcoming fiscal year.  Over a million dollars in capital project spending, without the need for bonding, has been proposed.  The  annual budget referendum is slated for May 3.

Danbury looking to add classrooms to Great Plain Elementary

The Danbury Public School District continues to have growing enrollment.  Superintendent Kevin Walston recently told the Board of Education's Sites and Facilities Committee that the City is looking into adding classrooms to Great Plain Elementary School.  He says in terms of options and providing additional space for elementary classrooms across the district, it's a good conversation to have.  This comes as the City is looking to build a Career Academy for middle and high school students to alleviate overcrowding at those grade levels.  An annex at Ellsworth Avenue Elementary School is also nearing completion.  Walston notes that Ellsworth is possibly the fastest growing elementary school in the district, and will soon have four new kindergarten classrooms, three or four preschool classrooms, and a new registration center.  A project to expand Great Plain was shelved years ago in favor of those two projects.  Walston says they'll get some more specifics from the City's Public Works Director and Engineer at the subcommittee's next meeting.

Brookfield considers ARPA recommendations

Brookfield officials will schedule a date, still to be determined, for a special meeting in Brookfield to further discuss recommendations from the American Rescue Plan Act ad hoc committee.  The group presented their recommendations to the Board of Selectmen earlier this month.  Brookfield has received $5.25 million in federal pandemic relief funds.  About 2 dozen items were proposed, with the committee stressing 12 priorities, totalling $2.37 million.  The allocations being touted include funding for the fire department, small business grants and mortgage and rent relief among others.

Danbury examining sewer line request near airport

Danbury is looking into a request for a sewer line through Danbury Municipal Airport.  An ad hoc committee of the City Council is meeting at 6:30 tonight in City Hall to consider a temporary construction easement for the installation. 

The Airport was approached by West Miry Holdings LLC to construct a line, connecting to existing infrastructure at Backus Avenue.  A portion of the main extension within the right-of-way of Miry Brook Road veers onto property of DXR along the taxiway, then across private property and eventually terminating at the rear of 43 Miry Brook Road. 

Although the easement lies outside of the Taxiway Safety Area, it will be paved in accordance with Federal Aviation Administration standards.  Danbury Airport Administrator Michael Safranek says since there is no plan in the near future for a sewer connection for this section of Miry Brook Road, and this could benefit on-and-off airport tenants, this is the best way to respond to the need for a sewer line for the business. 

The project does have the support of the FAA, but the location has not been fully vetted by the Department of Public Works, so the Planning Commission last week gave a negative referral.

Area legislators to hear testimony on DEEP tree removal bill

Several local lawmakers are calling on residents to submit testimony on a bill up for a hearing on Friday about tree removal on properties under the control of the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.  Kent state Representative Maria Horn and Steve Harding of Brookfield, along with New Milford Senator Craig Miner says this stems from the devastating removal of trees by DEEP at Housatonic Meadows State Park.  Friday's hearing by the Environment Committee is being held at 10am via Zoom.  The first hour of the hearing is reserved for Constitutional Officers and State Agency Heads.  People who want to testify must register using an online Form by Thursday at 3pm.  Speaker order of approved registrants will be posted on the Environment Committee website on Thursday at 6pm.  Written testimony may be emailed in Word or PDF format to ENVtestimony@cga.ct.gov. Speakers will be limited to three minutes of testimony. 

Brookfield to wrap up open COVID-19 vaccine clinics

Brookfield is set to wrap up COVID-19 vaccine clinics at the end of the month.  Starting March 1st, vaccination appointments can be scheduled by calling the Brookfield Health Department.  Currently, Brookfield hosts clinics on Thursdays only, from 3 to 6pm at Brookfield Town Hall.  No appointments are currently needed.  People will need to show proof of primary vaccination series for booster doses and a photo ID is required.

A mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinic is being held in Weston this afternoon.  There will be an area for pediatric doses of Pfizer to be administered to kids 5 to 11 with parental permission.  The clinic is at Weston Intermediate School from 4pm to 7.  For those 12 and older all three brands will be available, depending on age.

Local lawmaker gets perfect score from Connecticut League of Conservation Voters

Danbury State Senator Julie Kushner has received a perfect score of 100 from the Connecticut League of Conservation Voters for her support of environmental public policy bills during last year's legislative session.  The League cited several measures, including the modernization and expansion of the bottle bill, restrictions placed on toxic PFAS in consumer packaging and firefighting foam, as well as Workforce Development Programs for Renewable Energy,  Energy Retrofits in Affordable Housing and Energy Storage among others.

Bethel Board of Finance to get budget presentation tonight

The Bethel Boards of Selectmen and Finance are each holding special meetings tonight to consider the purchase of a new Police Vehicle from the current year Capital Non- Recurring budget.  The Selectmen will meet at 6:30pm via Zoom and in person at the Municipal Center starting at 6:30.  The Board of Finance will take up the matter at a 6:45pm meeting, also via Zoom and in person at the Municipal Center.

The Board of Finance will then receive a presentation of the Board of Selectmen's proposed budget for the coming fiscal year.  They'll then discuss the municipal and school budget proposals.  The Bethel Board of Education is proposing a $51.2 million plan, an increase over the current year due in part to increased enrollment.  But educators are also concerned about the impact of COVID and maintaining current services. 

The budget meeting will also be hybrid, held via Zoom and in Meeting Room A of the Municipal Center, at 7pm.

Danbury holds hearing on potential sale of City owned land

A public hearing has been held by the Danbury City Council about the potential sale of a City owned property.  Only two people spoke during the hearing Wednesday night about the City looking to put 33 East Franklin Street and 72-80 Maple Avenue out to bid. 

A neighboring business owner was concerned that whatever is put there, that no street parking be allowed as is the current situation. 

State Representative Ken Gucker suggested that the City not sell the land and instead apply for a Brownfield Remediation Grant from the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.  He says up to $4 million would be available, and then the City could turn the site into the home of an elementary school. 

City officials have previously said that the ground is contaminated with arsenic, mercury and traces of chemical production and cannot be used for residential or recreational purposes.  Gucker cited Kennedy Flats and the former Mallory Hat Factory site as properties that were remediated and now serve residential purposes. 

The E. Franklin Street property is zoned for light-industrial use.  The City Council declared it surplus in September, allowing officials to put out a request for proposals. Any final agreement of sale must be returned to the City Council for final authorization.  Danbury won a multi-year fight in 2019 over the abandoned former Amphenol 100,000-square-foot factory when a judge condemned the property.  The 3.1 acres, owned by Aberdeen Development, was $1.1 million behind on taxes and city fees.

Public hearing in Bethel tonight on ball field improvements

The Bethel Planning & Zoning Commission will hold a public hearing on February 22nd about site improvements at the Middle School Ball Field.   The meeting will be held at the municipal center at 7pm.  Claris Construction is applying for a special permit at 300 Whittlesey Drive.

A private donor, who has asked to remain anonymous, is offering to pay for a  new multi-sport turf complex.  The field could be used for softball, baseball, soccer, lacrosse and field hockey.  Claris, the firm involved with the Track and Field Training Facility near the High School, will also add lighting. 

The proposal could see the baseball diamond moved back 10 to 20 feet into the nearby hill and putting up a retaining wall. 

Plans call for encapsulated rubber turf for the area, except for the football field.  The material is reportedly safer than the traditional rubber system, stays cooler and allows the ball to move faster than on natural grass.  It also has a 50-percent longer lifespan than so-called coconut infill.  

The public may attend and send comments via regular mail and email at landuse@bethel-ct.gov.

Driver injured in Route 53 crash

Route 53 in Redding was closed for several hours yesterday due to a single vehicle crash.  Redding Police responded to a report of an accident with moderate injuries shortly before 4:30pm between Redding Road and Newtown Turnpike.  The driver was unconscious and trapped in the vehicle.  The patient regained consciousness on scene and was transported to the hospital for further evaluation.  Route 53 was reopened shortly after 6:30pm.  Police and West Redding and the Redding Fire Departments, along with EMS responded to the incident, which remains under investigation.

COVID-19 testing launches in New Fairfield

New Fairfield officials are reminding residents of a new COVID-19 testing option now available on week days, starting tomorrow.  The Health Department has arranged for PCR testing Mondays through Fridays as of tomorrow, at the New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department Company A community room on Ball Pond Road.  The testing is available at no cost to the Town or patient.  There is no residency requirement.  Appointments are required and can be made online through the lab company Curative.  This comes as Connecticut's test positivity rate falls below 3-percent.  The state reported yesterday that about 1,300 positive cases were detected out of more than 43,000 tests reported to the Department of Public Health between Friday and Monday, making the test positivity rate 2.97 percent.

Bethel man killed in car accident in Trumbull

A Bethel man was killed in a car accident in Trumbull over the weekend.  State Police say 44-year old Domingo Gutierrez was headed south on Route 25 shortly after 9 o'clock Sunday night.  He lost control and went into the median, striking a tree head on.  State Police say Gutierrez was transported to St. Vincent’s Medical Center where he was pronounced dead.  State Police are asking for any witness to the accident to contact Trooper Matthew Baker at Troop G in Bridgeport by emailing him at Matthew.Baker@CT.gov.

New Milford Mayor proposes budget with slight tax increase

New Milford Mayor Pete Bass is proposing a budget for the coming fiscal year which would increase taxes by 1.7 percent.  The $109.6 million proposal is a 4.28 percent increase in spending over the current year.  It breaks down to $41.8 million on the municipal side and $67.8 million for the schools.  Bass says budgets were flat for two years, but rising utility, health insurance and other costs have led to this proposal. 

One of the biggest increases will go toward  New Milford Community Ambulance moving to a fully-paid staff, and the town taking over debt from the ambulance building, which the organization previously paid for.  New Milford Library part-time staff salaries are increasing due to the hike in the state minimum wage. 

New Milford's grand list grew by about $80 million last year and will experience savings by joining a new regional health district.

Ridgefield seeks more consequences for builders ignoring demolition ordinances

The Ridgefield Board of Selectmen is asking the state legislative delegation to introduce a bill to implement stiffer consequences for builders who ignore demolition delay or building ordinances.  All Ridgefield ordinance fines and penalties are tied to what state statute allows. 

Selectman Bob Hebert suggested a larger monetary penalty that will make an impact on violators.  First Selectman Rudy Marconi  suggested also adding the suspension of the builder’s license for one year.  The Board is sending a request to all of the local state Representatives and Senators to introduce language into this year’s legislature that stiffens the penalty for a violation of either the building code and/or the demolition delay provision. 

The latest action follows what Marconi called an egregious and intentional violation of the ordinance.  A New Street house built in the 1870s was demolished without the proper permits, and before the the end of 30 days specified in the demolition ordinance.  The ordinance was first proposed after the Nehemiah Keeler House, a Colonial saltbox built within a decade of the founding of Ridgefield, was demolished in 2009, despite efforts to try and preserve it. 

In the New Street case, the prosecutor asked Ridgefield building officials during the trial if the judge should have the $1,000 fine remitted to a local organization rather than going to the state, as required.  The prosecutor asked that the penalty be paid to Ridgefield. The judge called for it to be a donation to the town.

Westconn Park applicant seeks more time before public hearing continues

The Danbury Planning Commission did not continue a public hearing at their meeting last week on the proposed multi use development called Westconn Park.  The applicant, 46 Mill Plain LLC, requested a continuance to their next meeting.  Planning Department officials say they will know by March 1st if it will be on the agenda for the next meeting.  The 30 acre proposal calls for retail, offices, bank with drive-thru, restaurant and housing.  Before the first hearing on the application, staff reports cited concerns about lack of access roads in case of evacuation and sidewalks for pedestrian connectivity.  The applicant tweaked their traffic report just before the meeting, which prompted rebuke from City officials, which had been working on their own report based off their previous traffic plan.

Region 9 Board of Ed set to discuss masks in schools

The Easton, Redding and Region 9 Board of Ed is set to discuss masks in schools at their meeting tomorrow.  The tri board meeting is at 7:30pm. Sherman has joined other Greater Danbury area towns in opting to give families the option of students wearing masks after February 28th, when the statewide mandate is expected to be lifted.  Federal mandates require masks on public transportation, including school buses.

Car accident involving tree sparks fire in Mahopac

A car accident involving a tree sparked a fire in Mahopac on Friday.  The Mahopac Volunteer Fire Department was dispatched to Drewville Road shortly after 11:30pm Friday.  The driver was able to get out of the vehicle on their own and the car became engulfed in flames.  Firefighters quickly extinguished the blaze.  The driver was transported for medical treatment. The roadway remained closed for about an hour until the vehicle could be removed from the tree.

Danbury Police Cadets to host open house

The Danbury Police Cadets will have an open house on March 31st. Youth between 13 and 20 years old will be able to learn about the program and will be given applications.  Those accepted will begin the Basic Entry Skills Training (B.E.S.T.) program.  The open house is at 6pm on March 31st in the community room of the Danbury Police Department. 

OH man accused of stealing car in RI found in Bethel

An Ohio man accused of stealing a car with a child inside it has been arrested in Bethel.  Police received a report of a vehicle idling in the Best Western parking lot on Stony Hill Road yesterday morning.  The car had been there for several hours.  Officers determined that the vehicle was stolen from Rhode Island Saturday.  

32-year old Joshua Boles was sleeping in the driver’s seat.  He was charged with larceny and held on bond. 

Boles is a suspect in a separate investigation in Rhode Island in which a man matching his description attempted to steal a car with a 6-year-old child in the back seat.  Police say the child’s mother fought with the suspect, and prevented him from driving away with the child. 

He is also under investigation for another stolen motor vehicle out of Ohio and stolen license plates out of Pennsylvania.

Court: Redding's valuation of Meadow Ridge property 'excessive'

A Superior Court judge has found Redding's valuation of the Meadow Ridge retirement community property to be excessive, but that Redding Life Care’s multiple expert witnesses were unreliable.  The Newstimes reports that Redding officials haven't decided yet whether to appeal the ruling in the nearly nine-year court battle over the town’s tax assessment.  

Redding Life Care filed a suit in June 2013 claiming that Redding owed them money over the improper assessment of their 136-acre campus in 2012.  The assessment was $112.5 million, but the company claims the value was $84 million.  The ruling says the court's calculation is $92 million.  The judge has yet to dictate how $2.5 million owed to Redding Life Care by the town would be paid.  Meadow Ridge is the largest employer and biggest taxpayer in Redding. 

If an appeal is going to be filed by Redding, it must by done by Thursday. The next court date is set for February 28th.

House fire in Newtown extinguished

A house fire in Newtown over the weekend required mutual aid from Brookfield.  Newtown Hook & Ladder responded to a Mount Pleasant Road home around 2:30 yesterday afternoon.  Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company responded with a crew of 6, as several members were taking a class in station.  Members operated for about an hour before being returned to service.  

Ridgefield Board of Ed adopts proposed budget

The Ridgefield Board of Education has approved a budget proposal for the coming fiscal year.  The $107.2 million plan is a 4.79 percent increase over the current year.  Nearly 80 percent of the budget is for salaries and employee benefits.  Some minor adjustments were made ahead of the vote at their meeting last week, including a decrease in the athletic equipment line and reductions to both insurance liability and workman’s compensation costs.  There is a 19 percent increase in special education outplacement and tuition costs based on the district’s growing population of students with special needs.

Changes coming to Ridgefield Board of Ed public participation rules

The Ridgefield Board of Education has changed the public comment portion of their meeting.  When meetings moved to a virtual or remote format, the Board moved the public comment portion to the end of the meeting.  This gave people time to sign up to comment, but the Board says this also helped them get through the meeting agenda before it was too late at night.  The change, starting next meeting, will feature a two-period public comment session.  Up to 30 minutes, 10 people could comment at the start and then all others who didn't have time to speak will be able to do so at the end of the meeting.  

Danbury residents call for Charter School funding during state budget hearing

A public hearing has been held about the governor’s proposed budget.  Many of the people who signed up to testify during the more than 9 hour hearing advocated for funding to be included for a Charter School in Danbury.  Most of those who called for the funding during the hearing are part of a local group called Latinos for Educational Advocacy and Diversity, or LEAD. 

Funding was not included in the budget because Charter school allocations are typically made the same year that a school opens.

The proposed operators are in the middle of applying to the state Department of Education to revise its charter, to update it with the new operator, Elevate.  The nonprofit plans to open for the 2023-2024 academic year, if the state signs off and the legislature approves funding. 

An anonymous philanthropist has pledged $25 million to demolish a building at the corner of Main and Rose streets and construct a new school, with a gym and cafeteria.  The charter school would eventually serve 770  sixth through 12th grade students, selected through a lottery process.  

Recommendation to Danbury Zoners is to opt-out of granny pod law

Danbury could opt out of a new state regulation that would allow so-called granny pods.  The Planning Commission has given a positive recommendation to a proposal for opting out of a new state law that requires municipalities to allow accessory apartments, garage apartments or in-law suites.  Under the law, they are be legal to build and rent to family or other tenants in residential and single-family areas. 

The Zoning Commission has scheduled a public hearing on the opt-out provision on March 8th. 

Planning Director Sharon Calitro says Danbury is best positioned to address housing issues in the City.  She notes that they are in the process of preparing the 10-year Plan of Conservation and Development update and an affordable housing plan.  Calitro says they recognize that Danbury is growing and have discussed the need to reinstate some form of accessory apartment regulation. 

Accessory apartments were allowed in Danbury until around 2015 when there were nuisance and land use issues.  The Zoning Commission then deleted that section of the City's zoning regulations.

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.

COVID-19 cases drop in Greater Danbury area

According to the latest COVID-19 data from the state Department of Public Health, Danbury reported 189 cases in the last two weeks ending February 12.  Bethel has had 93 cases, there were 45 COVID cases in Brookfield, and New Fairfield reported 20.  There were 62 COVID cases in New Milford, 72 in Newtown, Redding reported 32 cases in the last two weeks while Ridgefield had 64. 

Compared to being vaccinated against COVID-19, being unvaccinated has a relative risk 10 times higher of being hospitalized with and 32 times higher of dying of COVID, according to the state Department of Public Health.  Being unvaccinated has a 3 times higher risk of being infected with COVID.

46-percent of kids 5 to 11 in Connecticut have now gotten at least 1 dose of a COVID-19 vaccine.  That's a 1-percent increase from the week before.  The 12 to 24 year old cohort also increased their vaccination are by 1 percent. 

Connecticut remains 4th in the nation when it comes to the percentage of the state's population fully vaccinated against COVID-19, while Rhode Island has moved into first place.  77.4 percent of Connecticut's population is fully vaccinated.  Rhode Island is at 80.1 percent followed by Vermont at 79.9 percent, and then Maine at 78.1 percent.  Massachusetts round out the top 5 at 77.3 percent fully vaccinated. 

Bethel Police Department to host Blood Drive

The Bethel Police Department will be hosting a Blood Drive March 30th from 11am to 4pm.  Donors looking to make an appointment are urged to log on to redcrossblood.org or call 1800-733-2767 and use code BethelPD when making the appointment.

Ridgefield firefighters train in Man Vs. Machine drill

This past week, after completing Ice/Coldwater rescue training, Ridgefield firefighters have now trained in Man vs. Machine.  One simulation was trying to free an arm that was caught in a snowblower.  Live input and training were headed by Retired Firefighter Tim Nobes.  Department officials say Nobes is an expert in all rescue drills, calls, and training. Pictured is "C" shift when the training on the snowblower took place.

Conn. releases update COVID-19 statistics for Greater Danbury area

The state department of Public Health is reporting COVID-19 case rates for the Greater Danbury area continue to fall. Case rates for the week ending February 12th range from 10.3 to 33.5 down from a range of 26.7 to 42.9 percent per 100,000 population the week before. The lowest case rate is in New Fairfield and the highest is in Bethel, based on population.    

The rates are:

New Fairfield 10.3

Danbury 15.9

New Milford 16.5

Ridgefield 18.3

Newtown 18.4

Brookfield 18.9

Redding 25.1

Bethel 33.5

The state department of Public Health is reporting COVID-19 infection rates for the Greater Danbury area ranging from 4.8 percent to 11.4 percent, down from a range of 6-and-a-half percent to 15 percent last week.  The lowest test positivity is in Ridgefield and the highest is in Bethel.  At home COVID-19 test results are not reported to the state.  The rates are:

Ridgefield 4.8 percent

Newtown 6.1 percent

New Fairfield 6.5 percent 

Danbury 6.7 percent 

New Milford 7 percent 

Brookfield 7.7 percent

Redding 9.8 percent

Bethel 11.4 percent

The number COVID-associated deaths in Connecticut has grown by 105 since last Thursday.  The state is also reporting a breakthrough rate of COVID-19 infections among the state's fully vaccinated population of 6.35 percent.  New state data released Thursday show there were 544 positive COVID cases reported to the state since Wednesday out of more than 11,000 tests. 

The daily positivity rate was 4.71 percent.  The number of COVID hospitalizations dropped by 15, for a total of 325.  47.4-percent of those patients are not fully vaccinated.  The state's positivity rate is about the same as last week and there are 200 fewer patients with COVID in the hospitals.

Slight risk for ice jams in western Connecticut

The Kent Office of Emergency Management is cautioning that there is a slight risk for a few ice jams in western Connecticut where the thin snowpack could be melted by the combination of mild temperatures in the low 50’s and around an inch of rainfall early this morning. Recent cold weather has allowed ice to thicken on the Housatonic and minor flooding could break up some of the ice, causing some jamming in the normally prone locations.

Special Town Meeting scheduled in Roxbury on cannabis ordinances

Roxbury has scheduled a Special Town Meeting for residents to vote on two proposed cannabis-related ordinances.  One would  prohibits the use of cannabis on town property, and carries a $50 fine for violations.  The other ordinance is a ban on licensed cannabis business including producers, dispensary facilities, cultivators, micro-cultivators, retailers, hybrid retailers, food and beverage manufacturers, product packagers, delivery services or transporters. 

The new state law allows Connecticut municipalities to legalize and regulate the adult use of cannabis by those over age 21.  The law also made it legal for homegrown cannabis by the end of this year. 

The Special Town Meeting is slated for Thursday at 7pm in Roxbury Town Hall. 

Also on the agenda is a vote on adding the Affordable Housing Feasibility Plan to the 2021/2022 Capital Plan and received grants funds of $14,600 be applied to it.  Roxbury residents are being asked to weigh in on the plan for using the town's $636,000 share of the federal American Rescue Plan.

Brookfield Food Pantry in need of items

The Brookfield Food Pantry is in need of a few items.  Area residents who are able to help them out by dropping off a few items from their list, are being asked to do so in order to help  members of the community in need.  The Food Pantry is specifically asking for donations of dried beans, old fashion oatmeal, protein bars, canned pasta, ketchup, decaf coffee, bars of soap, shampoo and conditioner.

Senate Democrats latest group to push for more pandemic pay

Democratic state senators want to give more “hero pay” to a wider range of essential workers.  The Lamont administration is not considering expanding the number of recipients beyond the state workers and National Guard members.  Danbury state Senator Julie Kushner, co-chair of the Labor Committee, says until the pandemic many people didn't realized how important that grocery store worker is.  She says specific funding numbers haven't been decided at this time.  Kushner says they want to hear from essential workers before determining what will be in the final bill. Interim federal rules published last year allow state and local COVID-19 recovery funds to be spent on premium pay for essential workers of up to $13 per hour, in addition to their regular wages. The amount cannot exceed $25,000 per employee.

Danbury man arrested for allegedly running drug factory

A Danbury man has been arrested for allegedly running a drug factory. 

Danbury Police say 32-year old Felipe "Savi" Rosa became a person of interest to investigators after receiving multiple complaints about him selling illicit drugs in the City.  Investigators witnessed several suspected drug transactions and were granted search warrants. 

Police carried those warrants out at his Division Street home yesterday afternoon.  Police seized several thousand dollars, a loaded pistol, several pounds of marijuana, assorted narcotics, and drug paraphernalia.

Rosa was arrested on charges of Operating a Drug Factory, Possession of  less than 8 oz Cannabis in a Locked Container, Manufacturing Cannabis with intent to sell, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia Criminal Possession of a Pistol, Criminal Possession of Ammunition, Risk of Injury to a Child and three counts each of Possession of a Controlled Substance and Possession of a Controlled Substance with intent to sell.

Elderly resident rescued from house fire in Brookfield

A Brookfield Police officer and firefighter rescued an elderly resident from a house fire yesterday morning.  Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company Chief Andrew Ellis was first on scene at Rabbit Lane and reported smoke from the front door.  The kitchen fire was quickly extinguished and the house ventilated of smoke.  The woman was evaluated by EMS, but refused transport to the hospital.  The cause of the fire is under investigation.  Brookfield Fire officials say this was their 70th request for service in the last week.  There were 21 Fire calls and 49 EMS responses.

Danbury COVID-19 case rate continues to fall

Danbury has reported 189 COVID-19 cases to the state Department of Public Health in the last two weeks ending February 12th.  The case rate has been cut almost in half from last week and is down to 15.9 cases per 100,000 population.  Danbury has a test positivity rate of 6.7 percent, down from 10.8 percent last week. 

A few Connecticut municipalities have moved down into the Orange zone  for COVID-19 community spread. New Fairfield, Bethlehem, Washington, Woodbury and Sharon have 10 to 15 cases per 100,000 population.  Several small towns in the northwest corner are in the grey zone with fewer than 5.  But 153 of Connecticut's 169 municipalities are in the red with 15 or more cases per 100,000 population over the last two weeks. 

Newtown Board of Ed votes to make masks optional

The Newtown Board of Ed has voted to leave the decision on masks in schools up to individual teachers and families when the statewide mandate is lifted, presumably at the end of the month.  Masks will still be required on buses because transportation regulation decisions have been made at the federal level.  Superintendent Lorrie Rodrigue says they heard many opinions on COVID-19 spread  mitigation strategies in the schools, including masking, and thanked those who reached out to share their thoughts.  She noted that there is a myriad of varying issues, and the Board crafted very specific practices that the district will develop or maintain as a result. Bethel, Brookfield, New Fairfield, Newtown and Ridgefield Boards of Ed met this week and all decided to have masks be optional for students and staff once the statewide mandate expires.

Danbury gets more time to plan for future of homeless services

The gubernatorial executive order about congregate settings during the pandemic has been extended by the legislature until April 15th.  That's the new deadline Danbury is facing when it comes to figuring out where to shelter the City's homeless population.  Danbury is being sued over the Zoning Commission's rejection of an application by a nonprofit for an 86-room shelter with emergency and supportive housing units.  Neighbors of the former Super 8 motel, which Pacific House bought with federal and state funding, objected to the location citing safety concerns and potentially criminal activity brought to the neighborhood.  When the pandemic started, Danbury and other nonprofits closed the smaller shelters in the City.

Danbury awarded state grant for Trail Routing Planning Study

Danbury is receiving a state grant for a Trail Routing Planning Study.  $40,000 will be used for planning, design, education and outreach.  The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection awarded $3 million in grant funding through its Recreational Trails Grant Program for 20 projects across the state.  Danbury is looking to connect a trailway in Putnam County to Tarrywile Park trails. 

Kent Falls State Park Trail Repair will be done with a $250,000 grant.  The Kent Land Trust is receiving a grant of $116,600 for planning/design, construction, equipment, Amenities, and outreach on the Kent-Warren LT Partnership. DEEP received 65 applications which includes 6 from State Parks for a total of $22 million dollars requested for these funds. Requests from the highly ranked proposals alone totaled over $7 million dollars.

Funds received through this program may be used for locally supported trails and trail systems, bikeways and multi-use paths.  Grant money can be allocated for a wide variety of purposes, including planning, design, land acquisition, construction, construction administration, and publications for bikeways, walkways, and greenways as well as for equipment and trail amenities, such as parking lots, toilet buildings, signs, and benches.

Bridgewater awards bid to firm to demolish the Grange

The Bridgewater Board of Selectmen has awarded a bid to a firm to demolish the Grange.  Stone Construction came in at a higher bid than others, but they are a local firm.  The $59,820 bid award was approved with conditions, including that the price hold steady and that the state Attorney General's office signs off on approval of the demolition. The AG required time for someone to step forward with enough money and a realistic plan to buy and restore the structure.  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.  Bridgewater First Selectman Curtis Read says the building has no water supply well and no septic system, and contains asbestos and lead paint.  Bridgewater has a $100,000 state grant to do the prep work.

New Milford Mayor presents proposed budgets to Town Council, Board of Finance

New Milford Mayor Pete Bass has presented proposed Municipal and Board of Education Budgets to the Town Council and Board of Finance.  If approved, the total budget would result in a 1.7 percent  increase over the current year.  On the municipal side, Bass notes that the budget has been flat for the past two years but costs such as gasoline, health insurance, pension, debt service and a fully opened Library are the drivers of the increase.  The first joint meeting of the Town Council and Board of Finance is Tuesday un the E Paul Martin Room of Town Hall.  The meeting will also be livestreamed.  Bass says the good news for the budget is that New Milford had about $80 million in Grand list growth, with the Health District merger saving approximately $98,000 in costs.

COVID-19 testing, vaccine clinic in Danbury closed Monday for holiday

Due to President’s Day Holiday on Monday, some COVID-19 related sites in Danbury will be closed.  The pediatric vaccine clinic for kids 5 to 11 at 132 Main Street will be closed.  The COVID-19 vaccine clinic at 7 East Hayestown Road however will remain open Monday from 1pm to 7pm.

On Monday, there will be no testing at 118 Memorial Drive. 

COVID-19 PCR testing in Danbury during the week at Pat Waldron Hall is from 3pm to 7pm.  Weekend hours are 9am to 3pm.  The lab can handle up to 700 test per day.  They are administered on a first come, first served basis with no appointment needed.  Walk up and drive thru participants will be accepted.  Results are emailed by the lab

Marvelwood School holding COVID-19 vaccine clinic Saturday

Marvelwood School in Kent is holding a COVID-19 vaccine clinic on Saturday, from 11am to 3pm.  Vaccines will be administered in the lower level of the Athletic Center off Skiff Mountain Road.  Pfizer, Moderna, and Johnson & Johnson vaccines and booster shots will be available at no cost to anyone 12 years of age or older.  Parental permission is required for individuals under the age of 18.  Members of the Marvelwood community will be prioritized during the first hour of the clinic, so the School asks that town residents consider arriving after 12pm in order to avoid long lines and maintain social distancing. Proper masking is required on campus at all times.  Participants should also bring ID and a copy of their vaccination card, if applicable.

Danbury Fire Department marks anniversary of 911 service

The first call to 911 was placed on February 16, 1968.  Danbury Fire Department marked the anniversary by noting that prior to that date, individuals needed to dial local 10-digit phone numbers to reach police, fire or emergency services. Last year, the Danbury 911 Public Safety Answering Point received over 55-thousand-500 calls. This resulted in 5,026 fire and service responses and an additional 6,176 “first responder” medical responses on top of all the calls for law enforcement requests. 

Danbury Board of Ed Committee to hold off on mask recommendation

The Danbury Board of Education Policy Committee has met on the issue of masks in schools and didn't make a recommendation last night.  The full Board of Ed has a meeting scheduled next week, but they might not make a decision at that time.  Board Chair Rachel Chaleski believes it's premature to make a decision without guidance from the state Departments of Education and Public Health, a thought echoed by their medical advisors. 

Policy Committee member Theresa Buzaid says Connecticut has become a nanny state and that they have more important things to think about.  She wants the decision on masking to be left up to parents, not the Board saying it's not their role.  Committee Chair Joe Da Silva responded that it is the Board's role to protect students in schools, manage the schools and provide policy.  He notes that there are other considerations to take into account, which is why the three medical advisors were brought in to discuss how best to do that.

Danbury Health Director Kara Prunty updated the Committee on the current COVID-19 statistics in the City, a 10.8 percent infection rate with 26.7 cases per 100,000. Medical advisor Dr. William Begg, the longest tenured emergency medicine physician at Danbury Hospital, noted that there are currently four people in Danbury Hospital with COVID.  School Nurse Kathy O'Dowd says the number of cases since Winter break has dropped significantly, but there were 13 reported among the school population in the last three days. 

Committee member Michelle Coelho was concerned about the mental health impact of kids continuing to wear masks and believes that should be part of the decision. Begg noted that they are seeing a bump in depression and related cases, but they don't know the exact reason behind that bump.  He acknowledged that it could be in part due to masking, but added that children have lost grandparents and family members lost jobs among other stressors.

Citing high vax rate, Ridgefield Board of Ed to make masks optional

The Ridgefield Board of Education has voted to have masks be optional in school when the statewide mandate on face coverings is lifted. 

Superintendent Dr. Susie Da Silva says over 95 percent of the public school district's faculty is vaccinated and many are boosted.  87 percent of Ridgefield students 12 and older have gotten at least a first dose, with the figure slightly lower for those with a 2nd dose.  The number of 5 to 11 year olds who have started the vaccine process is at 57 percent of the school district population. 

The Ridgefield Board of Ed heard from the town's Health Director during their meeting Monday night.  Ed Briggs says he feels comfortable with the level of infection in the school, and the vaccination rates, lifting the mandate at this time.  

The state Departments of Education and Public Health haven't released guidance for districts yet on how to move forward with decisions about whether or not to unmask, or later bring masks back. Da Silva says that doesn't mean they can't look at trends in individual schools or classrooms, noting that it would be irresponsible not to do that.  But she hopes there will be state guidance so they're not making arbitrary decisions, and looking at the same things when making decisions.

Bethel Board of Education votes to allow masks to be optional

The Bethel Board of Education has voted to allow masks to be optional for both students and staff beginning February 28th. This also includes all school-sponsored events. The Board noted that masks will still be required on school buses as that is per federal legislation.  The Governor's Executive Order, which was extended to June 30th, allows the Commissioner of Public Health to reinstate the statewide mask mandate if they deem it necessary.  Updated guidance for school districts is expected from the state Department of Public Health on protocols for COVID-19 positive cases. 

Bethel schools will continue to maintain HVAC systems in compliance with COVID mitigation standards. 

Superintendent Dr Christine Carver says an individuals' choice to wear their mask will be dependent on their own risk factors.  The administration will work with families who have individualized circumstances or are at high risk.  Carver asked that parents speak to children about being respectful of those choices and help to promote a culture of inclusivity. 

Students and staff should continue to stay home if sick.  The district does have home tests available for those in need.  They encourage frequent hand washing and respiratory etiquette. 

Brookfield, New Fairfield, New Milford and Ridgefield school districts have all voted on the future of masking in schools after the statewide mandate expires.  They all decided to make masks optional starting March 1st.  Each district heard from their medical advisors and took their recommendations into account.

Warm up not likely to cause ice jam flooding on Housatonic in Kent

The Kent Office of Emergency Management says the possibility for localized ice jam flooding the Housatonic River is low, but the National Weather Service has issued an advisory for the area for the next few days.  Milder temperatures yesterday and today will be leading to some snowmelt and heavy rain. This runoff may allow for river ice to break up in some areas, which may cause ice jams and lead to localized flooding on rivers and streams. Kent has had numerous communications with the National Weather Service about this possibility. With the water level and the large areas currently of open water, with no ice, the concern for ice jams remain low for the Housatonic.

Three people evaluated by EMTs after CO issue

Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company is warning of the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning.  Yesterday, while on a follow up inspection, the Deputy Fire Marshal found a commercial occupancy with elevated CO levels due to an improperly vented portable heater. There were 3 occupants who requested medical evaluation. The building was ventilated and the heater removed. The occupants all refused treatment by EMS.  Fire officials are reminding everyone to assure all heating devices are properly ventilated and that working CO detectors are installed in homes and businesses.

New Fairfield, Region 12 to make masks optional in schools

The New Fairfield Board of Education has voted to make masks optional in schools when the statewide mandate expires.  At their meeting last night members reviewed the data collected from a staff and parent survey.  They also heard from the New Fairfield Health Department to review their recommendations.  Superintendent Pat Cosentino thanked staff for their continued dedication to teaching and learning, despite the challenges and adversity of the past two years.

The Region 12 Board of Education has voted to make masks optional as of March 1st.  The statewide mandate is expected to be lifted on February 28th.  The Board voted to let the superintendent decide whether to make masks recommended or mandatory as COVID-19 situations change.  The district covers Bridgewater, Roxbury and Washington.

Public hearing tonight in Danbury on land sale

A public hearing is being held tonight in Danbury about the potential sale of a City owned property.  Danbury is looking to put 33 East Franklin Street and 72 through 80 Maple Avenue out to bid.  The hearing is at 7pm in Council Chambers in City Hall. The former Amphenol site is contaminated with arsenic, mercury and traces of chemical production and cannot be used for residential or recreational purposes.  The City Council declared it surplus in September, allowing officials to put out a request for proposals.  Any final agreement of sale must be returned to the City Council for final authorization.

Danbury schools locked down as police searched for despondent male

Several Danbury schools were briefly placed in lockdown yesterday as police searched for a despondent person believed to be armed with a handgun.  Danbury Police received a call from a resident yesterday morning asking for help in locating a relative who may have been suicidal.  Officers searched the area and located the man at a residence on Moran Avenue.  The area was closed off and businesses and schools were notified and secured until the person was contacted and provided with services. The incident ended peacefully around 12:30pm.  Superintendent Kevin Walston says the lockdown and then shelter in place lasted about 40 minutes before normal operations resumed at Broadview Middle School, Ellsworth Elementary School, Hayestown Avenue Elementary School, the Alternative Center for Excellence, and the Danbury Early Childhood Center on Granville Avenue.  A private Catholic school and Henry Abbott Technical High School were also placed on lockdown.

Driver killed in car accident on Route 7 in Danbury

A driver was killed in a car accident in Danbury late yesterday afternoon.  Danbury Police responded to a serious motor vehicle accident on Route 7 shortly after 5pm involving several cars in the area of Miry Brook Rd and Bennets Farm Road. 

The road was closed in both directions for several hours during the response and investigation. 

Police say a 2019 Nissan Rogue traveling southbound crossed over the double yellow line into oncoming traffic.  The driver of the vehicle was pronounced dead at the scene.  Two vehicles headed northbound were struck.  The passengers in those cars were transported to the hospital for treatment of injuries.  A van was also hit, but the driver was uninjured. 

The accident remains under investigation.  Anyone who witnessed the collision or has information about this collision is asked to contact Sgt. DeRocco of the Traffic Division at (203) 797-2157.

New Milford Board of Education votes to end mask mandate

The New Milford Board of Education has voted to end the mask mandate in schools when the statewide requirement ends, presumably on February 28th.  Masks will become optional in New Milford schools starting March 1st.  The decision by the Board was unanimous.  Some concerns were raised about attitudes towards those who chose to still mask up and the Board discussed that at length, including protocols in the individual schools as far as respecting those who make a different decision.

The Board of Education voted last night to get rid of the mandate requiring staff vaccination and/or weekly testing.  The school volunteer policy will revert to November 6, 2018 language that does not require vaccination and/or testing for volunteers.  Each of these measures take effect today.

New Milford's Superintendent is outlining some guidance moving forward.  The schools will be leaving partitions in place in classrooms where small group instruction is taking place, as well as in the cafeterias, until updated guidance is released from the State. If there is no recommendation, Alishia DiCorpo says they wll remove the partitions over the April break.

Some mitigation strategies will remain as they assess the impact of the transition to a mask optional environment. During the first few days and weeks of March, the administration, faculty, and staff will be assisting students  as needed as they navigate the transition.  They are hoping to provide a respectful environment where students feel safe. 

District officials are asking students and staff to self-monitor symptoms and isolate/test at the onset of COVID symptoms.  Proper handwashing and covering of the mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing will be promoted.  New Milford Schools will continue to provide masks to those staff members or students who request them and to provide at-home tests as needed while supplies last.

Faculty and students should continue to report positive test results to their school nurse and/or administration.  Parents are asked to contact the school nurse to let them know if a child is fully vaccinated for COVID-19.

Sherman School reopens after heating issue

The Sherman School was closed yesterday due to heating issues.  The school’s superintendent says the issues resulted in below acceptable conditions in classrooms.  Initially officials hoped to open with a two-hour delay to get the building back up to temperature, but realized that was not a possibility.  The Sherman School announced the closure around 9am.  The issue was later resolved and most of the classrooms were back up to normal temperatures by 1pm.  Normal operations are expected today.

Pace University student from Danbury has died 

A Pace University student from Danbury has died from what police described as a medical emergency.  Jordan Robinson, a sophomore, died over the weekend.  He  attended Danbury High School before transferring to St. Luke’s School in New Canaan, where he led the Black student union. He played football for both schools. Mount Pleasant police were called to the campus around around 4am Sunday on a report of a 20-year-old man who was experiencing difficulty breathing. He was transported to the hospital where he died. Investigators are waiting on the autopsy report from the chief medical examiner’s office.

Ridgefield reporting 3 percent increase in revenue over previous Grand List

Ridgefield is reporting a 3 percent increase in revenue over the previous Grand List.  The October 2021 Grand List nets an increase of $148.5 million in assessed value.  The change will produce an increase in revenue of $4.18 million. The top two taxpayers in Ridgefield by assessment are Boehringer Ingelheim at $302.4 million and CL&P at $36 million.  There are 9,800 real estate units and more than 20,000 motor vehicles included. 

The Real Estate portion of the Grand List increased due to a large number of existing and new property owners remodeling kitchens, bathrooms, attics, basements and general whole house remodeling.  A large number of after-the-fact permits were issued in anticipation of a home sale or being listed for sale.  A large number of in-ground pools also added to the increase.  Another factor was a major tax payer's abatement ending. 

The motor vehicle portion of the Grand List increased by 24 percent as a result of older cars being replaced, and used cars increasing in value as a result of a shortage of used cars statewide.  

Sandy Hook families settle for $73M with gun maker Remington

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The families of nine victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting have agreed to a $73 million settlement of a lawsuit against the maker of the rifle used to kill 20 first graders and six educators in 2012, their attorney said Tuesday.

The case was watched closely by gun control advocates, gun rights supporters and manufacturers because of its potential to provide a roadmap for victims of other shootings to sue the makers of firearms.

Remington, which made the Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle used on 12/14, also agreed to allow the families to release numerous documents they obtained during the lawsuit including ones showing how it marketed the weapon, the families said.

The families and a survivor of the shooting sued Remington in 2015, saying the company should have never sold such a dangerous weapon to the public. They said their focus was on preventing future mass shootings.

“Today is a day of accountability for an industry that has thus far enjoyed operating with immunity and impunity,” Veronique De La Rosa, whose 6-year-old son Noah was killed in the shooting, said at a news conference.

Messages seeking comment were left for Remington and its lawyers Tuesday.

The civil court case in Connecticut focused on how the firearm used by the Newtown shooter was marketed, alleging it targeted younger, at-risk males in marketing and product placement in violent video games. In one of Remington’s ads, it features the rifle against a plain backdrop and the phrase: “Consider Your Man Card Reissued.”

Remington had argued there was no evidence to establish that its marketing had anything to do with the shooting.

The company also had said the lawsuit should have been dismissed because of a federal law that gives broad immunity to the gun industry. But the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled Remington could be sued under state law over how it marketed the rifle. The gun maker appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which declined to hear the case.

Remington, one of the nation’s oldest gun makers founded in 1816, filed for bankruptcy for a second time in 2020 and its assets were later sold off to several companies. The manufacturer was weighed down by lawsuits and retail sales restrictions following the school shooting.

Four insurers for the now-bankrupt company agreed to pay the full amount of coverage available, totaling $73 million, the plaintiffs said.

“Today is not about honoring Ben. Today is about how and why Ben died,” said Francine Wheeler, whose 6-year-old son was killed in the shooting. “Today is about what is right and what is wrong. Today is about the last five minutes of his life which were tragic, traumatic. the worst thing that could happen to a child, and how they unfolded as they did.”

A lawyer for the plaintiffs, Josh Koskoff, said the settlement should serve as a “wake up call” to the gun industry and its financial backers.

“For the gun industry, it’s time to stop recklessly marketing all guns to all people for all uses and instead ask how marketing can lower risk rather than court it,” Koskoff said.

New Milford, Newtown Boards of Ed to discuss mask mandates

The Newtown Board of Education is meeting tonight and one item on their agenda is to discuss and take possible action on face masks in schools.  This is a regularly scheduled meeting so there will be time for public comment.  This is an in person meeting, and will not be live streamed.  There is a phone number for people to call to listen to the meeting, though comments can be emailed to the Board as well.  NewtownBOE@newtown.k12.ct.us or 1-617-675-4444 and the PIN is 663 072 620 6474#.  Tonight's meeting is in the Reed School Library at 7pm.

The New Milford Board of Education is taking up the issue of masks in schools at their meeting tonight.  The Board will also discuss related pandemic measures, including mandatory COVID-19 vaccination for staff and regulations for school vounteers.  Tonight's meeting is at 7pm at Sarah Noble Intermediate School, in the Library Media Center.

Swearing in ceremony for Danbury Police Sgts, Detectives

The Danbury Police Department has held a swearing in ceremony for two new Sergeants and three new detectives.  During the ceremony yesterday, Hector Rodriguez and Alex Relyea took the oath of office as Sergeant. 

Rodriguez came to the Danbury Police Department as an officer in 2008 from the NYPD.  He also served in the Army as a Combat Engineer.  Rodriguez  is a member of the Honor Guard and provides translation services.  He received the Exceptional Police Service Award in 2009, 2012 and 215, and the Medal of Meritorious Services in 2008.  He was 1st on the current Police Sergeant Eligibility list. 

Relyea joined Danbury PD in 2014, having previously served in New Milford.  Relyea was recently reinstated after being cleared in two investigations into shootings, one fatal.  In December 2018, Relyea shot and killed Paul Arbitelle during a confrontation at the Glen Apartments.  In July 2019, he shot and injured Aaron Bouffard during a search for the man who caused a disturbance at MCCA.  He remained on paid administrative leave for more than two years, until this fall, when he was exonerated in both cases.  

Michelle Stabile, Christina Buonocore and Michael Russotti took the oath of office as Detective.  Stabile joined DPD in 2012 and served as a Field Training Officer and part time Evidence Technician.  She is a certified EMT and received the Exceptional Police Service Award in 2019. 

Buonocore joined DPD in 2012 and holds a Master's Degree in Forensic Science.  She has served as Field Training Officer, Peer Support Officer, part time Evidence Technician and Property Clerk. 

Russotti joined DPD in 2014 and was the recipient of the Samuel J Luciano Award for graduating at the top of his class at the CT POST Academy.  He has served as Crisis Intervention Officer Intermediate, part time Evidence Technician, Police Diver Intermediate, Peer Support Officer and Rifle/Breach Kit Officer.  

Fatal accident in North Salem under investigation

A fatal accident in North Salem is under investigation by New York State Police.  Troopers responded to a crash Saturday afternoon on Titicus Road and determined that a motorcyclist crossed into the opposite lane of travel near Oakridge Road and struck an SUV head on.  70-year old Edward Carroll III, of Greenwich, was pronounced deceased on scene by responding Westchester Paramedics.  It's unclear what caused Carroll to leave his lane of travel.  The investigation remains ongoing.  

Brookfield firefighters have busy day

Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company responded to at least 17 calls in about 28 hours.  Shortly before 7 o'clock this morning, firefighters responded to a vehicle fire in the 200 block of Candlewood Lake Road.  The RV was  well involved with exposures to additional vehicles. The fire was quickly knocked down.  The cause is under investigation.  Firefighters responded to 4 car accidents between 2am and 6pm Monday and EMS went on 11 calls since midnight, including a two car crash on Candlewood Lake Road by Main Drive. 2 people were transported to Danbury Hospital for evaluation of injuries.

Brookfield Board of Ed makes masks for students, staff optional beginning March 1

The Brookfield Board of Education has voted to make masks for students and staff optional beginning next month.  At the special meeting last night, Chairman Bob Belden says they're moving into a new phase with the support of district health advisers.

Brookfield Health Director Dr Ray Sullivan provided written input, noting that he can reasonably assume that the town can recommend eliminating the mask requirement in schools when any executive order from the state expires.  He noted that his recommendation was based on the assumption that COVID cases, which have dropped precipitously for three weeks, will continue to decline. 

Masks will still be required on public transportation, including school buses, per federal law.

Superintendent Dr. John Barile says parents should continue to keep their children home if they are sick and urged people to follow current quarantine guidelines.  A poll of educators in the local Brookfield teachers union was split down the middle when it came to masks.  Barile noted that Brookfield’s opening plan said the board’s ultimate goal was to have children not wearing masks if circumstances and health conditions allowed.

A number of vocal parents have attended previous in-person board meetings, including some yelling and speaking out of turn, both for and against masks.  One meeting was ended abruptly due to an anti-mask disruption while YouTube temporarily removed video of another for alleged medical misinformation.  There was no public comment last night. Between the governor’s announcement ending a statewide mask mandate and Monday’s meeting, Belden received at least 84 emails.

Local lawmaker opposes extension of pandemic orders

The Connecticut Senate has extended some of Gov. Ned Lamont's remaining pandemic-related executive orders. The list includes a statewide mask mandate for schools and child care centers the Democrat has said he wants lifted Feb. 28. The Senate vote on Monday followed last week's approval in the House of Representatives.  Besides the masking requirement, other executive orders being extended include requiring vaccination or testing for nursing home visitors; relaxing certain training and hiring requirements for medical professionals to address staffing shortages; and waiving bidding requirements to procure goods and services needed to respond to the pandemic.

The legislation also provides a 30-day stay of eviction proceedings in cases where landlords are still awaiting approval for financial assistance under a state program, and it continues an order requiring that nursing home staff be fully vaccinated with a booster shot. They faced a Feb. 11 deadline to get a booster, but the bill extends the deadline to March 7. Most of the executive orders are scheduled to expire April 15.

The Senate debated a separate resolution that continues the state’s public health and civil preparedness emergencies through June 30.

Newtown state Senator Tony Hwang says the debate was the final step of a drawn out and convoluted process where there has been little public consideration or input. There has been a complete lack of representative process, transparency and metrics used in this decision making.

The HB 5047 vote resulted in a 21-14 passage, along a mostly Democrat party-line vote, while every Republican Senator voted against HB 5047 joined by 1 Senate Democrat.

Hwang says the incredible amount of public outcry from parents and caring teachers who have seen children suffer social-emotional and developmental challenges from spending two consecutive school years in a mask should have been enough to signal that the state should be making moves to prepare schools to have a ‘mask optional’ environment. 

Nuvance Health hospitals' visitation hours changing again

Nuvance Health hospitals' visitation hours are changing once again as COVID-19 infection rates continue to fall.  Starting today, visiting hours at Danbury Hospital will be 11am to 8pm and patients may have two visitors per day. Proof of full vaccination or a negative COVID test is required. The support persons can be different every 24 hours, but visits should be restricted only to those essential to providing care. The screened support persons cannot exit the hospital and return the same day.  As of today, appointment-based visitation will resume for inpatient behavioral health patients.

Putnam County putting together list of projects to consider for ARPA allocation

Putnam County is putting together a list of projects to consider funding with the $19.1 million expected from the American Rescue Plan Act, including requests from outside agencies, the women’s resource center, substance abuse and addiction services, seniors, and veterans. 

Infrastructure from roads and bridges to sewers will also be considered. Putnam County Executive MaryEllen Odell says shovel ready projects are included.  The Putnam County Golf Course renovation, estimated at $400,000, was moved up due to water damage and asbestos abatement. 

Putnam County was notified of its ARPA allocation late last year and held preliminary internal discussions.  The U.S. Treasury’s final rule was released in January and county department heads had until last week to submit project ideas. Municipal governments were given a February 28th deadline. The final rule goes into effect April 1.

Wilton Police Department marking Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month

The Wilton Police Department is marking Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month.  They urged people to take part in activities being offered by the Domestic Violence Crisis Center.  The Wilton Domestic Violence Task Force says healthy relationship skills are learned, and youths should have the knowledge to engage in healthy dating relationships.  DVCC is offering a wide variety of programs throughout the month, with the goal of educating the Wilton community on healthy relationships, particularly young people and those in young people’s lives.

New Fairfield Board of Selectmen adopt proposed budget

The New Fairfield Board of Selectmen has adopted a nearly $13.3 million budget, more than $400,000 over the current year.  First Selectman Pat Del Monaco says without $550,000 in reductions from the municipal operations and capital and non-recurring budgets, the increase would have been 7.45 percent, but it's down to a 3.15 percent increase.  The biggest hike has come from are utilities and public works as the Board seeks to restore the town’s road-paving money to the budget.  New Fairfield is also looking to fund an electronic ticket system for the police department and replacement of a health department vehicle.  The New Fairfield Board of Selectmen is also proposing to spend $18,100 on active shooter kits and new firearms for the police department.

Bethel Board of Ed proposes budget

The Bethel Board of Education is proposing a $51.2 million budget for the coming academic year.  District officials say this is needed in part because of increased enrollment.  But educators are also concerned about the impact of COVID and maintaining current services.  Superintendent Dr. Christine Carver says Bethel’s school district has had close to $1 million dollars cut from proposed budgets over the past three or so years.

Newtown Board of Education adopts new academic freedom policy

The Newtown Board of Education has adopted a new academic freedom policy, distinguishing between teaching and indoctrination.  The policy says schools should teach students how to think, not what to think--and that classrooms are forums for inquiry, not arenas for the promulgation of particular viewpoints. Board members say the key focus of this policy is to protect the freedom of speech and the association of Newtown teachers while ensuring instruction is based on district practices and that all students feel included.  Newtown’s new policy becomes the basis for more specific regulations requiring the district to maintain an atmosphere of academic freedom within the schools that are without partisan, embrace diversity of thought, foster equity in perspectives, and inclusion of ideas. The vote earlier this month followed several meetings of debate about diversity, equity and inclusion.  The district hired Wesley Johnson in October as coordinator of diversity, equity and inclusion.

Two men arrested for alleged shoplifting from Southbury store

Two people have been arrested for alleged shoplifting from a Southbury store last week.  Southbury Police responded to a report of an active shoplifting from Ulta Beauty on Main Street North Thursday afternoon.  The suspect vehicle was stopped in the shopping plaza parking lot.  Following an investigation, it was determined that 39-year old Jose Borges and 20-year old Christopher Martinez, both of Waterbury, stole 23 bottles of perfume, totalling $2453.  Each was charged with larceny and conspiracy to commit larceny.  They were released on bond for court appearances on the 22nd.

 

Fire at Aquarion's offices in Monroe quickly extinguished

A fire at Aquarion’s offices in Monroe was quickly extinguished over the weekend.  Monroe and Stepney Fire Department volunteer firefighters were called for an activated fire alarm shortly before 3m yesterday and found a smoky condition throughout much of the 27-thousand square foot building.  The fire was contained to one room.  No one was inside the building at the time.  Stevenson Volunteer Fire Company, White Hills and Huntington fire, Monroe EMS and Monroe Police responded with mutual aid.  Units remained on scene for an hour performing overhaul and using several fans to clear the building of smoke.  The Fire Marshal is further investigating but the cause appears electrical. 

Hazardous materials spill in Brookfield cleaned up

A hazardous materials spill in Brookfield has been cleaned up.  Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company responded to a property on Vale Road Friday afternoon on a report that a  tractor trailer spilled about 20 gallons of motor oil from its engine due to a damaged oil pan. Firefighters used absorbent pads and booms to contain the spill.  The trucking company hired a clean up company.  The state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and Brookfield's Deputy Fire Marshal also responded to the scene.  There was no health or safety issues due to this spill and the environmental impact was minimal. The clean up went into the evening hours and area residents were cautioned that they might hear generators, vac trucks and other equipment operating. 

Cell phone tower is being proposed in Danbury

A cell phone tower is being proposed in Danbury.  Cellco Partnership, doing business as Verizon Wireless , is proposing to collocate antennas at 60-feet on a 49-foot building at 19 Kenosia Avenue.  Public comments regarding potential effects from this site on historic properties may be submitted in writing to EBI Consulting.  Project 6121008447 - SNA c/o  EBI Consulting, 21 B Street, Burlington, MA 01803, saddleman@ebiconsulting.com, or via telephone at (757) 354-7566.

Newtown School Resource Officers face off for charity

During a recent hockey game, Newtown School Resource Officers Matthew Hayes and William Chapman squared off against each other as part of a fundraiser for Special Olympics.  Between periods of the Newtown/ New Fairfield High School hockey game at Danbury Arena the two competed in the charity event.  Chapman defended his title with a 20-15 victory over Hayes.  Their next fundraiser for Special Olympics will be the annual penguin plunge in late March.  All donations go to Special Olympics CT https://give.soct.org/fundraiser/3134105

Gunn Historical Museum receives state grant

The Gunn Historical Museum has received a $12,100 dollar grant from Connecticut Humanities, the non-profit state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.  The Connecticut Cultural Fund Operating Support Grant will be used to catalogue a collection of Washington artifacts, and put them in its online database.  The Historical Museum is located in a 1781 house next to the Gunn Memorial Library and Museum.

Danbury to hold hearing on potential sale of City-owned land

A public hearing is being held Wednesday in Danbury about the potential sale of a City owned property. 

Danbury is looking to put 33 East Franklin Street and 72 through 80 Maple Avenue out to bid.  The hearing on the 16th is at 7pm in Council Chambers in City Hall.  Danbury won a multi-year fight in 2019 over the abandoned former Amphenol 100,000-square-foot factory when a judge condemned the property.  The 3.1 acres, owned by Aberdeen Development, was $1.1 million behind on taxes and city fees. 

The ground is contaminated with arsenic, mercury and traces of chemical production and cannot be used for residential or recreational purposes.  The property is zoned for light-industrial use.  The City Council declared it surplus in September, allowing officials to put out a request for proposals. 

Any final agreement of sale must be returned to the City Council for final authorization.

New Fairfield Police identify suspicious man, case remains open

New Fairfield Police have identified the man they were looking for last week, who was captured on home surveillance footage walking through a yard in the Peralta Street area.  Police say the man, whose identity is not being released at this time, is not considered a danger to the community.  No details about the investigation have been disclosed and the case remains open.  New Fairfield Police did say that there were unusual events that took place during this investigation, and that it was an event specific to one home. 

Investigation underway of Pomperaug District Department of Health finances

The Pomperaug District Department of Health has release a statement noting that an investigation has been opened into the agency's finances after a review found “significant anomalies.”  The statement said in an effort to increase efficiencies in the delivery of services to the district, a routine review was conducted over the summer, which  led to the discovery and law enforcement investigation.  This comes as the district, which covers, Oxford, Southbury and Woodbury, is merging with New Milford and Washington into the Housatonic Valley Health District.  The statement did not say which law enforcement agency is investigating, and state police say they have no record of an investigation.

Danbury Board of Ed fills vacancy

The Danbury Board of Education has unanimously voted for a Democrat to fill a vacancy on the Board.  Brigid Guertin, the city’s historian and the executive director of the Danbury Museum and Historical Society, will serve the nearly 2 years remaining of the four year term.  She steps in for Democrat Joe Britton, who resigned last month after being elected to the Danbury City Council.  Guertin and her husband, Police Lt Gary Guertin, have three sons in the Danbury School District.  She was voted to the role out of 4 candidates interviewed by the Board of Ed.

Kent officials considering updated housing plan

Kent officials are considering an updated housing plan.  An informational session is being held by the Kent Housing Plan Steering Committee about the municipal housing plan they are in the process of developing.  The zoom meeting is set for February 23rd at 7pm.  The informational will include a summary of the resident housing needs survey results, what the housing plan development process will include, and how residents can provide feedback along the way.  Registration for the meeting is required.

Newtown officials go over school projects in CIP

The Newtown Legislative Council has taken up items from the Capital Improvement Plan for the schools, pushing one project off.  The Reed chiller project caused a lot of discussion amongst the members.  The Legislative Council was told that the units are not suitable for retrofitting and is an age-driven concern and could potentially be an issue.  First Selectman Dan Rosenthal says Newtown could wait a year or two, but then would be taking a chance on having an emergency.  The Council amended the Board of Finance recommended Capital Improvement Plan by removing the 22-23 Reed School Chiller Replacement Project.

Connecticut Supreme Court adopts expert's redistricting plan

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The Connecticut State Supreme Court has adopted a congressional redistricting plan, submitted by the court’s hired expert, that makes mostly minor changes to the boundaries of the state’s five districts to accommodate population changes.

In a final order dated Thursday, the court said the map submitted by Stanford University Professor Nathan Persily complies “in every respect” to the goals first set out by the state’s highest court, including modifying the existing districts “only to the extent reasonably required” to make sure they’re “equal in population as practicable.”

The court plans to forward the newly adopted plan to the Secretary of the State, where it will be filed on or before Feb. 15.

“Upon publication, the plan of congressional districting shall have the full force of law,” read the court’s decision.

The court has ordered the Reapportionment Commission, a panel of state legislators that could not reach a bipartisan agreement on how to redraw the congressional district boundaries, to pay Persily’s bill of $89,800. The commission was able to reach a bipartisan deal on redrawing state legislative district boundaries.

The new congressional district map includes some minor adjustments to communities that were already split between multiple congressional districts. And despite urgings from Republicans to redraw an awkward boundary created 20 years ago, dubbed the “lobster claw” in the Democratic heavy 1st District, the claw still remains in the new map.

Local lawmaker opposes continued pandemic orders

During debate in the state House of Representatives on Thursday, Newtown Representative Mitch Bolinsky voted against extending the civil preparedness and public health emergencies, as well as the extension of executive orders issued by Governor Lamont, including the continued mandatory masking of children in schools.

Bolinsky supported an amendment on the bill that would have permitted ‘parental choice’ instead of mandated school mask mandates.  That amendment failed on a vote of 56-90.

Bolinsky says parents know what's best for their children, government should not make that decision in a one-size-fits-all, statewide mandate.  He added that many school-aged children have been adversely affected socially, emotionally and educationally (SEL), as well as physically. 

Bolinsky says the two-year suspension of representative government in Connecticut is unprecedented.  He says many want nothing more than clear, observation-based, statistically-scaled study data to provide guidance about how, or if, they and their families can navigate back to lives that feel more ‘normal’. 

COVID-19 case rates for Greater Danbury area updated by DPH

The state department of Public Health is reporting COVID-19 case rates for the Greater Danbury area continue to fall. Case rates for the week ending February 5th range from 26.7 to 42.9, down from a range of 33 to 70 per 100,000 population the week before. The lowest case rate is in Danbury and the highest is in Bethel, based on population.    

The rates are:

Danbury 26.7

Redding 28.2

Ridgefield 28.3

Newtown 28.7

New Fairfield 29.9

Brookfield 33.2

New Milford 37.6

Bethel 42.9

The state department of Public Health is reporting COVID-19 infection rates for the Greater Danbury area ranging from 6.5 percent to 15 percent, down from a range of 10 to 20 percent last week.  The lowest test positivity is in Ridgefield and the highest is in New Fairfield.  At home COVID-19 test results are not reported to the state.  The rates are:

Ridgefield 6.5 percent

Newtown 8.5 percent

Redding 9.7 percent

Danbury 10.8 percent 

Brookfield 11.7 percent 

New Milford 12.2 percent 

Bethel 12.8 percent

New Fairfield 15.3 percent 

Community College Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center opens at WCSU

The new Connecticut State Community College Naugatuck Valley Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center located at Western Connecticut State University opened yesterday.  The program, founded in 2015, will now include both an evening and daytime program.  The evening program accommodates the Linde Inc, Skills Pipeline workforce development scholarship students.

The new facility will enroll up to 24 students in the two-semester certificate program that prepares individuals for hands-on positions in the manufacturing sector. Students earn a total of 31 credits, which can be applied to engineering technology or technology studies associate degree programs.

The first cohort of 12 students will graduate from the evening program in May 2022. These students began the program in August 2021 in a space provided by Henry Abbott Technical High School in Danbury and moved into the new facility in January. As the program grows, day and weekend cohorts are planned for a potential of up to 72 graduates per year. Each student can earn an OSHA 10 Certificate and National Institute for Metal Working Skills nationally recognized credential in two semesters.

Currently, 21 greater Danbury-based manufacturing companies are partnering with Naugatuck Valley’s Danbury and Waterbury Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center programs, where students are placed in internships. Approximately 95% of graduates are placed in full-time jobs with the potential average starting salary for a machine operator ranging between $18 to $22 an hour. The program also opens doors to higher paying positions within these companies, and promotions for incumbent workers after earning credentials.

“Advanced manufacturing is a major component of Connecticut’s economic future, and by supporting the growth of this sector, we are sending a signal to these cutting-edge companies that this is the place to be if they want to grow and flourish,” Governor Lamont said. “Making sure we have a workforce prepared to meet the needs of 21st century employers is a top priority for my administration. Connecticut’s strong network of higher education institutions provides a great, cost-effective way for those who live here to obtain the skills that can lead to a rewarding career. This new advanced manufacturing technology center in Danbury will be uniquely positioned to contribute to our workforce pipeline.”

NVCC is working toward establishing a College Connections program during the day for interested high school students from Danbury, Brookfield, Bethel, and New Milford. According to NVCC CEO, Lisa Dresdner, Ph.D., “this program will offer an 11-credit certificate to area high school students and will not only create a college pathway to the College’s Advanced Manufacturing Technology certificate program, but it will also prepare high school students to enter the manufacturing workforce. We’re very excited about what this means for the economy and industry in that part of the state!” 

Congressional delegation to push for Housatonic River National Wild and Scenic designation

Senator Chris Murphy and 5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes held a roundtable discussion yesterday with conservation leaders and local stakeholders.  They discussed the possibility of 41 miles of the Housatonic River being designated as part of the National Wild and Scenic system. 

The pair are working on legislation for this protective designation, which will make a stretch of the Housatonic River through Canaan, Cornwall, Kent, Salisbury, Sharon, New Milford and North Canaan eligible for federal funding to support conservation efforts.

Among those who took part in yesterday's discussion were Kent First Selectwoman Jean Speck and State Representative Maria Horn, representatives from the Kent Land Trust, Flanders Nature Center & Land Trust in Woodbury, Housatonic Valley Association, FirstLight Power, CT Audubon Society, Audubon Connecticut, Northwest CT Trout Unlimited, Northwest Conservation District, Northwest CT Land Conservancy, and Upper Housatonic Valley National Heritage Area.

COVID-19 case rates continue to decline in Greater Danbury area

According to the latest COVID-19 data from the state Department of Public Health, Danbury reported 316 cases in the last two weeks.  Bethel has had 119 cases, there were 79 COVID cases in Brookfield, and New Fairfield reported 58.  There were 141 COVID cases in New Milford, 112 in Newtown, Redding reported 36 cases in the last two weeks while Ridgefield had 99. 

The number COVID-associated deaths has grown by 136 since last Thursday.  The state is also reporting a 6.21 percent breakthrough rate of COVID-19 infections among the state's fully vaccinated population.  Compared to being vaccinated against COVID-19, being unvaccinated has a relative risk 9 times higher of being hospitalized with and 24 times higher of dying of COVID, according to the state Department of Public Health.  Being unvaccinated has a 3 times higher risk of being infected with COVID.

All but 5 of Connecticut's municipalities remain in the red zone alert level for COVID-19 community spread.  Bridgewater, Warren and Colebrook have joined Norfolk and Canaan in the grey zone with fewer than 5 cases per 100,000 population while the other 164 municipalities in the state have 15 or more cases per 100-thousand population over the last two weeks. 

Connecticut remains 4th in the nation when it comes to the percentage of the state's population fully vaccinated against COVID-19.  77.1 percent of the state's population is fully vaccinated.  Rhode Island is now tied for first with Vermont, at 79.7 percent, followed by Maine at 77.9 percent.  Massachusetts round out the top 5 at 76.9 percent fully vaccinated.

Danbury Board of Ed to meet Wednesday on mask mandate

The Danbury Board of Education Policy Committee will meet virtually on Wednesday night about whether or not to continue requiring masks in schools after February 28th.  The meeting Wednesday will be virtual and starts at 6:30pm.  The state House voted in favor of requiring masks through the end of the month, and then leaving the decisions up to municipalities.  The state Senate is expected to vote Monday on the proposed extension.

Diocese 'under protest' to postpone the mask optional policy

After the Diocese of Bridgeport sent a letter to Catholic schools they oversee in the Greater Danbury area and elsewhere saying that masks would be optional starting Monday, the state Department of Education intervened.  The governor's executive orders are in place through Tuesday, but were extended by the House through the end of the month.  The Senate is expected to vote Monday.  The Diocese says they, under protest, will postpone the mask optional policy.

State Rep. to seek election to state Senate

30th District state Senator Craig Miner is not seeking reelection.  On the heels of the Republican's announcement, a candidacy announcement was made by 107th District State Representative Stephen Harding that he'll seek the GOP nomination for higher office.  Harding, who currently represents Brookfield and the Stony Hill section of Bethel, says he wants to work to improve the business climate and find more ways to make Connecticut more affordable. The 34 year old and his wife have two children.  He has been practicing law for eight years. Harding was first elected to represent the 107th District in a special election in February 2015.

Car crashes into Bethlehem restaurant

A car crashed into a Bethlehem restaurant Wednesday night.  Firefighters responded to 74 Main Street South and found a Jeep Cherokee through the front wall of the building and into the bar.  Bethlehem firefighters helped people from the building, and the vehicle.  They also vented the building of smoke.  Bethlehem Ambulance was on scene to assist with patient care.  All injuries were minor and no transportation to the hospital was needed. Bethlehem Firefighters Association says the Painted Pony is a major supporter of BVFD events and they were glad to help the owners in this time of need.

Local lawmaker votes against extension of school mask mandate

A local lawmaker is among the few Democrats who voted against extending and codifying Governor Lamont's existing executive order that allows the public health and education commissioners to make statewide mask requirements in schools. 

Bethel Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan says he voted against the orders because administration officials have not identified which metrics would guide their decision to lift, or potentially reimpose, the school mask mandate.  While Allie-Brennan says he supports measures to protect kids and teachers, he wants oversight or clear rationale that can be explained to educators, parents, and students. 

With the availability and effectiveness of COVID-19 vaccines, and school testing protocols, Allie-Brennan says it’s time to restore a sense of normalcy.  He says individual towns should be empowered to decide whether to impose their own school mask mandates — or no longer require one.  He added that ensuring public trust requires clear, substantiated reasoning behind every decision, noting that that's what the public deserves.

During debate several amendments were introduced to modify the bill. Because he  opposed the bill, Allie-Brennan voted against the amendments.

New Milford woman with criminal history arrested for alleged shoplifting at Target

A New Milford woman has been arrested for alleged shoplifting from Target in Bethel.  Police responded to the store Wednesday afternoon on a report of two shoplifters leaving the store without paying.  43-year old Carrie Walencik matched the employees description and was located at the bottom of the exit ramp of the store pushing a Target shopping cart full of stolen items, totalling little more than $1,000.  Walencik was also found in possession of two glass crack pipes.  She was charged with larceny and possession of drug paraphernalia and held for arraignment yesterday.  According to court records, Walencik has pending cases for eight other arrests for various larceny charges.  Bethel Police say attempts are being made to identify the second suspect involved.

Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center opening in Danbury

Governor Ned Lamont will be in Danbury this afternoon.  He plans to participate in a ceremony marking the opening of the new Connecticut State Community College Naugatuck Valley Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center located at Western Connecticut State University.  The program has been in existence since March of 2015. Classes have been held in the evening at the Henry Abbott Technical High School.  The 3-thousand square foot space on White Street has been outfitted with CNC and manual machines, a tool crib, storage room, office, mechanical room, and a large classroom located on the mezzanine overlooking the shop floor. This new Advanced Manufacturing Technology Center will include both an evening and daytime program.

Danbury gets DOT funding to improve traffic flow, reduce congestion

Danbury is getting some state Department of Transportation funding to improve air quality.  $1.25 million will be used  to provide signal coordination to improve traffic flow, reduce congestion and delays along Route 39 and Route 53, Main Street and Osbourne Street.  10 transportation projects across the state are sharing in $24 million.  This is part of the Federal Highway Administration’s Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement Program.  Connecticut is investing federal funds in local, cost-effective projects that officials say will reduce vehicle exhaust emissions in areas of the state that do not attain national air quality standards.  Other funding will go toward upgrading traffic signal technology and the installation of electric vehicle charging stations.

Discussions continue on future of Danbury Career Academy

During the Danbury Board of Education's meeting on Wednesday night, Superintendent Kevin Walston provided an update on the future of the proposed Danbury Career Academy, after negotiations between Mayor Dean Esposito and the Summit developers broke down.  Walston believes a new school for 14-hundred middle and high school students could open on time in fall 2024, though acknowledged that everyone's a little anxious about what's next, surprised by the stall in negotiations and confused about what that means moving forward.  Esposito met yesterday with City Council leadership to discuss potential sites.  The Summit Project Manager says they've been in contact with the City and they've held been productive discussions.

State Senator will not seek reelection

An area legislator has announced that he will not seek reelection in November.  New Milford state Senator Craig Miner was elected to his first term representing the 30th District in 2016 after eight terms serving the people of the 66th House District. The 30th District also includes Brookfield, Kent, and Morris among other towns.  With 26 years in the General Assembly, and a decade as a First Selectman, Miner will have dedicated more than half his life to public service.  He says he's looking forward to more time with family and exploring what the next chapter of life holds. Miner has worked to protect the environment, support job creation and workers, and be a voice for the northwest corner in Hartford.

Brookfield appraising town-owned properties

Brookfield owns four properties and First Selectman Tara Carr says they're in the process of getting appraisals to determine market value, and potentially hiring a property manager because Land Use Director Alice Dew is leaving.  She's also looking for estimates on how much it would cost to manage those properties.  Two are on conservation land--at the Brookfield Nature Center and at the Gurski Homestead.  The others are at Erickson Farm on Nabby Road and on Silvermine Road next to the Police Station.  The houses came with the properties when the town purchased the land as open space and Brookfield has been renting them out since then.  Conservation Commission Chair Jeff Bronn updated the Selectmen at their meeting this month on the open space property leases.  The houses were built in the 1930's and are in need of a lot of upkeep and repairs due to age. The volunteer commission members check in on the tenants and follow through on any maintenance issues with the assistance of Land Use. The town owned residential property located at 43 Silvermine Road is managed by the Public Works Director. 

Putnam county distributes nearly 16,000 COVID-19 rapid test kits

Putnam County has ended government run COVID-19 vaccinations and testing will end in Carmel tomorrow.  The Putnam County health department vaccinated more than 25,000 residents since the department’s first mass vaccination clinic opened last year.  More than 72 percent of Putnam County residents have completed their primary series of COVID vaccination.  Putnam county has distributed nearly 16,000 COVID-19 rapid test kits through towns and villages, BOCES has given more than 40,000 rapid tests to the school districts in Putnam and New York State distributed 1.5 million rapid tests to nursing homes and adult care facilities statewide. County Executive MaryEllen Odell thanked volunteers in the Medical Reserve Corps. In 2021, they logged a total of 2,430 hours, including one volunteer who dedicated 174 hours singlehandedly. They worked indoors and out, sometimes in inclement weather, and she says they'll never know how many lives they helped save.

Gucker announces reelection bid

Danbury state Representative Ken Gucker has announced his reelection campaign.  The Democrat is seeking a third term representing the 138th House District.  As a result of redistricting, the 138th is losing the southwestern New Fairfield and northern Ridgefield, which are being moved into the 108th and 111th respectively.  Gucker grew up in New Fairfield and lives in Danbury and touted securing state funding last term for the long-proposed Margerie Reservoir Trail.

Proposed budget funds CSCUs, not Danbury Charter

Governor Ned Lamont has outlined a $24 billion state budget, but it did not include money for a proposed charter school in Danbury.  The proposed operators are in the middle of applying to the state Department of Education to revise its charter, to update it with the new operator, Elevate.  John Taylor says the nonprofit plans to open for the 2023-24 academic year, if the state signs off and the legislature approves funding. 

The charter school would eventually serve 770  sixth through 12th grade students, selected through a lottery process.  

An anonymous philanthropist has pledged $25 million to demolish a building at the corner of Main and Rose streets and construct a new school, with a gym and cafeteria.  Taylor Told the Newstimes that they plan to have access to athletic fields, but those details haven't been worked out. 

Lamont is proposing $65 million in his budget to help community colleges and the state's 4-year schools boost enrollment through tuition assistance. Enrollment has dropped 16-percent since Fiscal Year 2019 at Western, Central, Eastern and Southern Connecticut State Universities, and 22-percent at community colleges, due in part to the pandemic.

Brookfield Police to launch drone program

The Brookfield Police Department is getting some drones.  The Board of Selectmen signed off on $15,700 from the Police Outside Service Fund being used to also purchase the associated software and equipment and for training.  The Brookfield Police Department is looking to launch a drone program to help respond to calls for service. 

Recurring costs will include continued training, subscription-based software services, equipment maintenance and replacement and end-of-life hardware replacement. 

Recently retired Chief James Purcell wrote to the Board that the expense related to training and equipment to deploy a helicopter is prohibitive for most municipalities, and that the long lead time from the first call to getting existing regional helicopter assets on scene may force responders to proceed into unknown dangers.  He added that this would be an invaluable resource for safety and efficiency in pursuit of a successful resolution to incidents.  Purcell says this would also help with mutual aid to other towns. 

The drone, with high-resolution optical camera, costs $4,000.  The drone with high-resolution thermal camera is $9,000.  Depending on the amount of use, an in-service drone should be expected to have an operational life span of three to five years.

Putnam County winds down mass COVID-19 vaccination, testing

As Putnam County winds up its mass COVID-19 vaccination and testing programs, County Executive MaryEllen Odell thanked the volunteers, medical professionals and businesses who worked together during the pandemic.  Public demand for COVID-19 vaccines and tests plummeted in the past few weeks as the number of Omicron cases and hospitalizations sharply declined. Because of the lack of demand, the Putnam County Department of Health held its last vaccination clinic on Tuesday. The drive-thru rapid tests site run by the county and its partner, Ambulnz, in Carmel will end tomorrow.  At the height of the Omicron surge, 600 to 700 people tested a day. By the start of this month, the number of tests administered dropped to the single digits on some days. 

Kent COVID-19 test site gets new lab partner

COVID-19 PCR testing continues in Kent, with changes. The town has been working with the state Department of Public Health on a transition from lab vendor SEMA-4 to new lab vendor Wren Laboratories. Details are still being finalized, but free COVID-19 testing will continue at Kent Transfer Station.  The new days and hours are Tuesdays and Thursdays 3pm to 6pm and Sundays 4pm to 6pm.  For now, the new forms will be provided on site. Wren is planning to have an online form process soon.  PCR test results available in 24 to 48 hours.  Connecticut residency is not required. Insurance is not required, though patients must have an email address to get test results.  There is still a priority lane for First Responders.

I-84 Danbury improvement project study to be complete at end of year

The study of the I-84 Danbury improvement project should be completed at the end of this year.  Nearly 110,000 vehicles travel on I-84 in Danbury each day. There is about 1 crash per day in Danbury.  Transportation officials say short weave sections, roadway curvature, and congestion during peak periods are the main causes.  A large-scale mainline reconstruction project would likely not begin before the late 2020s. However, smaller, breakout projects could move forward into design and construction in the short-term. There is funding for the planning and preliminary engineering phase. No funds are currently programmed for rights-of-way acquisition or construction.

New Milford Library changes hours this week due to construction progress

Some changes are coming to the New Milford Library schedule this week as construction progresses.  The Library closed for part of the day yesterday because the mosaic was being worked on in the front entrance and there was painting at the side entrance.  Today, New Milford Library is open for pick up only at the side door from 10am to 5pm, and then at the front door from 5pm to 8.  Tomorrow, library materials can be picked up only at the side door, with no late night hours.

Ridgefield First Selectman presents budget proposal

Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi has presented a proposed budget for the coming fiscal year to the Board of Selectmen.  The 2.7 percent spending increase adds new positions.  He's proposing adding a part-time Building Department employee, a mechanic for the highway and fire departments, and one full time and one part time clerk positions in the highway department.  The budget also looks to take on capital projects that have been put off over the years, including the roof at Veterans Park Elementary gym.  Part of the increase also accounts for the new annual cost of police body and dash cameras.  The Board of Selectmen’s next budget meeting is set for the 28th.

Southbury Police seek to ID beer thief

The Southbury Police Department is looking to identify a white male, who is a suspect in a larceny.  The man is suspected of a theft at Stop and Shop on Monday, shortly before 3pm, accused of stealing five 30 packs of beer totalling $160.  He was wearing a Carhartt hoodie and camo baseball cap with a leather decal on the front.  Anyone with information regarding the identity of this person, is asked to contact Ofc. Alfano at (203) 264-5912. All calls will be kept confidential.

New Fairfield Police investigating suspicious person case

The New Fairfield Resident Trooper's Office is investigating a suspicious person case in a residential neighborhood.  A white man operating a small white SUV was spotted around 11:30am Monday near Peralta Street.  Home surveillance video shows the man walking near a shed and winterized boat.  Anyone with information on the man's identity is asked to contact New Fairfield Police at 203- 312-5701.  All calls will be kept confidential.

Malfunctioning furnace at Newtown meeting house causes smoky conditions

Newtown Hook & Ladder received a walk up report Monday night of an unusual amount of smoke emanating from the chimney at the Newtown meeting house.  Firefighters responded to investigate and determined that the smoke was caused by a furnace that was malfunctioning. The unit was shut off and the buildings key holder was advised of the situation. 

Wilton First Selectman makes budget proposal

Wilton First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice has presented a proposed budget to the Board of Selectmen for consideration.  The $34.1 million budget is a 1.89 percent increase over the current year.  Most of the 634,000 hike is due to the addition of a full time town administrator, a town engineer and an additional Parks and Grounds crew member, a position eliminated post-recession. The town administrator would take extra responsibilities away from the duties of the town leader.  Vanderslice says the engineer is needed to deal with infrastructure projects, flood mitigation strategy, and drainage upgrades around the Wilton High School athletic complex.

Danbury Board of Ed to consider budget proposal

The Danbury Board of Education is expected to vote tonight on Superintendent Kevin Walston's proposed budget for the coming academic year.  The $152 million proposed budget is a 6.2 percent spending increase, after grants and surplus funding from previous years is taken into account.  More than 30 new staff members would be added under the plan.  Danbury’s enrollment continues to grow, including a disproportionate number of high-need students such as English language learners and those who require special education.  Danbury needs 12 more teachers in bilingual, world language and English as a second language.  Social workers and counselors would also be added.  Walston reiterated in budget presentations that Danbury spends less money per student than all the other district in the state of Connecticut.  Health insurance, transportation, security and supply costs are also up.

Danbury reviewing wetlands permit application from Curry Automotive

The Danbury Environmental Impact Commission is reviewing a wetlands permit application from Curry Automotive to transform a storage yard near Danbury Municipal Airport into a Mercedes-Benz dealership.  A Danbury Public Health Inspector signed off on plans near the environmentally sensitive wetlands off Miry Brook and Sugar Hollow roads.  No direct discharges to wetlands are proposed.  Plans call for 230 parking spaces and 85 vehicles displayed on the second-story roof.  The FAA and Danbury's Planning and Zoning Commissions still need to approve the proposed special exception use and permit.  The Zoning Board of Appeals previously signed off on a variance.

WCSU mourning death of member of football team coach

Western Connecticut State University is mourning the death of  a member of their football team coaching staff in a traffic accident over the weekend.  30-year old Sean Salisbury died in a single-car crash on Mill Plain Road Sunday morning. 

He joined the WestConn football staff in the spring of 2020 as the defensive backs coach. 

A wake will be held Friday, from 4pm to 8pm at Trinity Episcopal Church in Tariffville, Connecticut. The funeral will be held Saturday at 11am, also at Trinity Episcopal Church. 

Coach Joe Loth says Salisbury loved his players and was loved by his players. Loth wished his family their deepest sympathy and hope they understand what a tremendous impact he had on the coaches and players.

Salisbury played high school football at Simsbury High School and later at Castleton University in Vermont. He served as an assistant coach at Castleton and at his high school.  Prior to the WCSU position, Salisbury spent two years as the defensive coordinator at Coventry High School in Rhode Island, where he also served as the linebacker and running backs coach.  He also coached at Plymouth State University, spending two years coaching the linebackers and one year coaching the defensive backs.

Former corrections officer arrested for allegedly trying to fraudulently obtain narcotics

A former Westchester County corrections officer has been arrested in Danbury for allegedly trying to fraudulently obtain narcotics at Danbury Hospital.  Police say 33-year old Corey Yancy used a fake name and presented himself as a Westchester County police officer to try to get the prescription.  Yancy did not have identification matching the fictitious name when asked by the hospital pharmacy for verification while trying to fill the subscription.  He was charged on Sunday with attempt to obtain a controlled substance through a forged prescription and impersonation of an officer.  Yancy was released on bond for arraignment on March 7th.

No injuries reported in Bethel car fire

A car was fully engulfed in flames yesterday morning in Bethel.  The Bethel Fire Department says no one was injured in the incident on Katrina Circle.  Firefighters responded shortly before 6am on a report of a fully involved car fire in the roadway.  The driver was able to get out of the vehicle safely.  The fire did not extend beyond the car. The fire marshal’s office is investigating the cause.

Area school districts await guidance on masking

School districts in the Greater Danbury area are awaiting word from the state Departments of Education and Public Health on how to move forward on masking decisions after the 28th.  The Danbury Board of Education’s policy committee would be the group to take up possible revisions to existing requirements.  District officials say the school community has been divided for a long time on this issue and they will also take into account input from  the local health department and mental health community.

New Milford School Superintendent Alisha DiCorpo says administrators are waiting for additional metrics.  She says it's important to note that students are required to wear masks on school transportation and in school as the executive order of the Governor is continuing until at least next Tuesday.  New Milford's daily COVID-19 positivity rates in the schools have declined, so starting next week daily letters from the schools to parents will be discontinued.  The district dashboard will continue to be updated daily for parents reference.

New Fairfield Superintendent Pat Cosentino says they will survey families to get their feedback.  The health director and nursing head will also weigh in at the Board of Education's meeting on Tuesday. 

Meanwhile the Diocese of Bridgeport, which includes Catholic schools in the Danbury area, plans to make masks optional beginning Monday, ahead of the Governor's order ending.

Newtown Police School Resource Officers raising money for Special Olympics

Newtown Police School Resource Officers are raising money for Special Olympics.  Officers Matthew Hayes and William Chapman are facing off against each other during the intermissions at the Newtown High School Hockey game tomorrow at 5pm at Danbury Arena.  They have raised almost $9,500 so far for the event.  Anyone wishing to donate can visit the NPD donation page: https://give.soct.org/fundraiser/3134105

Local lawmaker has mixed opinions on school mask announcement

Newtown State Senator Tony Hwang is touting the decision by Governor Lamont to repeal the state mask mandate in schools at the end of the month.  He says parents have been passionate advocates for their children’s educational and social emotional development, and called this a hard fought win.  Hwang called this announcement a welcomed change.  But he is concerned that the Governor is still asking to maintain Executive branch authority to reinstate the statewide mandate at his discretion.  Hwang says without a defined, science-based criteria for the decision making from Hartford, he will not support an order which allows for a statewide imposed school mask mandate without legislative input.

Ridgefield Police to hold another Citizen Police Academy

The Ridgefield Police Department is now accepting applications for the next Citizens Police Academy.  The series of classes is meant to connect the community and police, educating  participants about various aspects of police work.  The Academy will begin March 15th.  Classes will meet for 8 weeks, every Tuesday, from 6pm to 9pm at police headquarters.  Ridgefield Police officials say participants will gain insight into how the police department works and provides services to the community.  Some of the content that will be covered is Crime Scene Investigation, K9 Unit, Firearms, TASER, Speed Enforcement, D.U.I. Enforcement, Search and Seizure, Identity Theft, Patrol Procedures and Department History.  Applicants must be a minimum of eighteen years old and should live or work in Ridgefield. The last day to register is March 7th.  

Mahopac firefighters, Sheriff deputies participate in Ice Diving drill

Mahopac Falls Volunteer Fire Department members and two Putnam County Deputy Sheriffs went out in the bitter cold weather, using the frozen Lake Mahopac for an annual Ice Diving drill this week.  Fire officials say it's a physically, logistically, and mentally challenging task that can be extremely dangerous.  Firefighters and Deputies went over equipment, correct signals to communicate with the divers,  and how to correctly set up the pulley system.  Once the divers completed their dives, EMS crews monitored their vital signs.

COST holds annual meeting

The Connecticut Council of Small Towns is holding their annual meeting today to discuss public policy issues affecting their communities.  Governor Lamont and Attorney General William Tong will be the keynote speakers.  COST members will also hear a number of presentations, including from Department of Revenue Services Commissioner Mark Boughton,  who has been appointed by Governor Lamont to serve as the Senior Advisor on Infrastructure.  He'll provide attendees with an update on federal infrastructure funding.

Conn. State Police Cadet Program recruiting

The Connecticut State Police Troop A Southbury and Troop L Litchfield Cadet Programs are recruiting.  The law enforcement run community policing program is designed to expose youths age 13 to 20 to what a career in law enforcement is like.  Those interested in the program or want to apply can email Trooper Wayne Tate at Wayne.Tate@ct.gov with name and contact information.  Tate will then arrange a night to visit the program and provide a detailed breakdown of what the program is about.

Southbury officials proposing budget for coming fiscal year

Southbury officials are proposing a budget for the coming fiscal year with a 3.68 percent increase.  First Selectman Jeffrey Manville is proposing a $22.37 million tax and spending plan.  He says the proposed budget increase is due in part to a requirement to have police body cameras, a hike in fuel costs and the increase in the minimum wage.  Employees in Parks and Rec and some other departments are minimum wage workers.  Due to revenue increases, Manville says there could be a slight reduction in the mill rate.  The Board of Selectmen and Finance Director will review the proposal before it goes to a referendum in May.

Informational hearing today on Gov. executive orders

An informational hearing is being held today by the Connecticut General Assembly about the continuation of emergency declarations and limited executive orders.  Brookfield state Representative Steve Harding says this is the last chance before the start of the session to weigh in on how the legislature should handle the 11 outstanding executive orders, which expire a week from today.  The hearing is being held via Zoom from 9amto 3pm.  It will also be streamed on Youtube and CT-N.   The commissioners of Public Health and Education, and representatives from the governor's office are expected to participate.  Written testimony can be submitted to PHTestimony@cga.ct.gov in Word or PDF format. The first two hours of the hearing are reserved for state officials. Speakers will be limited to three minutes of testimony. All public hearing testimony, written or spoken, is public information.

New Milford sees big drop in daily COVID-19 cases

New Milford, like other Greater Danbury area towns is starting to see a big drop in the number of new daily COVID-19 cases.  In New Milford, there were only 9 reported since Friday.  The town is continuing with vaccine clinics and COVID-19 testing though.  The February clinics are being held on Wednesdays from 3pm to 5:30pm, with appointments required.  First, second and booster doses will be available. COVID 19 testing by New Milford's Health Department is for New Milford and Washington residents only.  Testing is done Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday 9am to 7pm and Saturdays 10am to 3pm.  Appointments are required, no walk-ins accepted.  Results are returned in about 72 hours.

Danbury to lift mask mandate at City Hall

Danbury Mayor Dean Esposito is no longer requiring municipal employees to wear masks in City Hall.  A message to staff members says city employees who wish to continue wearing a mask may do so.  The mask mandate was ordered at the end of December when the Omicron variant started to spread.  Lifting the mandate comes as a sharp decline in COVID-19 cases in Danbury is being reported.  The latest peak in Danbury was on January 11th at 572 new daily cases.  The latest data posted by the City shows 41 new cases on February 2nd.

Newtown Board of Ed approves budget proposal

The Newtown Board of Education has approved a budget for the coming academic year.  The Board approved an $83 million spending plan, a 4.21 percent increase over the current year.  That's about $3.35 million more than the current budget. The Newtown Board of Finance and Legislative Council will next review and approve a plan to send to voters in an April referendum.  Newtown is looking to add a Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Director to support updated curriculum.

UNIT gets blighted property cleaned up in Danbury

The Danbury Unified Neighborhood Inspection Team has reported progress in getting a blighted property cleaned up.  In a report to the City Council, UNIT Director Shawn Stillman reported that a home on Oakland Avenue that's in foreclosure was one of the worst residential blight cases he's seen.  He noted that a hole was cut in the deck for residents to deposit their garbage, and the piles of garbage were attracting rats.  There was also an old RV in the backyard. The foreclosure process took nearly two years to complete, with a few different lenders involved.  An out-of-court settlement was reached, waiving the fines, in exchange for immediate clean up.

Brookfield still has mask supply available

Brookfield officials say they still have a good supply of N95 face masks and they will remain available while the supply lasts.  The town has set up a phone line for the disabled who request masks and/or test kits. Brookfield Town Nurse Tracey Cahill will be monitoring the calls at (203) 775- 7314.  N95 masks remain available to those who wish to pick them up at Town Hall, Brookfield Library, the Senior Center, Police Department and Parks & Rec.  Distribution of masks and test kits will be prioritized to vulnerable residents including individuals who live in congregate settings and individuals with disabilities or are immunocompromised. 47 COVID-19 cases were reported in Brookfield last week compared to 117 the week before.  Officials say home test kits will probably affect the number of positive and negative tests.

Informational hearing set for continued pandemic emergency declarations

An informational hearing is being held tomorrow by the Connecticut General Assembly about the continuation of emergency declarations and limited executive orders.  Kent state Representative Maria Horn says she's had many conversations and received a lot of email in recent days about how the legislature should handle the 11 outstanding executive orders, which expire a week from tomorrow. 

She says many people have strong and diverse views, particularly about vaccine and mask mandates.  The hearing tomorrow is being held via Zoom from 9am to 3pm.  It will also be streamed on YouTube and CT-N. 

There is an online testimony registration form, which must be filled out by 3pm today.  Speaker order of approved registrants will random, but posted on the Connecticut General Assembly website calendar, under the event by 6 o'clock this evening.  Written testimony can be submitted to be PHTestimony@cga.ct.gov in Word or PDF format.

The first two hours of the hearing are reserved for state officials. Speakers will be limited to three minutes of testimony. All public hearing testimony, written or spoken, is public information.

Danbury Hospital temporarily adding FEMA ambulances to fleet

Danbury Hospital is temporarily adding ambulances to their fleet.  An agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, part of a statewide initiative, will make three ambulances available to help with non-emergency patient transportation during the ongoing pandemic.  Hartford also requested this service.  Ridgefield First Selectman Rudy Marconi told the Board of Selectmen at their most recent meeting that Danbury's Emergency Management Director, who is also Nuvance Director of Emergency Medical Services, told him if FEMA ambulances are spotted in the area, it's due to this agreement.

Kent officials not concerned about ice jam on Housatonic River

There have been some questions about the potential for an ice jam on the Housatonic River in Kent with the slight warm up and heavy rains.  The Kent Office of Emergency Management was in contact with their National Weather Service partners and they were not very concerned with the possibility for any type of repeat of 2018.  A State of Emergency was in place for 33 days that year.  A few homes were damaged due to the ice jam and the subsequent flooding, among other issues.

Brewster Fire Department adding new members

The Brewster Fire Department has held an orientation for 6 new probationary members who were accepted into the department. They were trained on basic operations, CPR, and briefed on the probationary member development program that they will all be a part of for the next twelve months. The Brewster Fire Department accepts members in the months February and August.

Putnam County Legislature elects Carmel rep. as Chair

At its annual organizational meeting recently, the Putnam County Legislature elected Neal Sullivan as Chair.  He represents District 9, the Town of Carmel and Hamlet of Mahopac, served as Deputy Chair of the nine-member Legislature in 2020 and 2021. First elected to the Legislature in 2016, Sullivan is chair of the Rules, Enactments and Intergovernmental Relations Committee and has served on the Audit, Economic Development, Personnel and Protective Services Committees, as well as the Putnam County Traffic Board. In 2021, Sullivan was chosen by the Legislature to chair the Putnam County Charter Review Commission, a process which is only conducted every 10 years. He also served as a member of the Police Policy Review Board.

Used car dealer gets ok to develop Danbury properties

The Danbury Zoning Commission has signed off on a used car dealer opening near exit 6 off I-84.  Blasius of Danbury previously received approval from Planning for a flood plain permit to locate a new office, showroom and display lot on four properties off Walnut Street.  Some Zoning Commission members were concerned about big trucks dropping off cars because it's a narrow roadway.  The applicant told the Commission that there is nowhere suitable to drop off cars, but they have a location about four miles away.  They'll also service the cars at that location before they are driven over.  The City's engineering department signed off on plans to demolish two of the four buildings and renovate two others.  Plans call for storm drainage improvements and the installation of curbing and sidewalks along Walnut Street and Oakland Avenue.  

Ghost guns seized in Operation Casper across Putnam, Westchester

Ghost guns have been seized in Operation Casper across Putnam and Westchester Counties.  More than 100 weapons were seized and 11 arrests made following a six-month multi-agency investigation into ghost guns and other illegal firearms in Putnam and Westchester Counties. Search warrants were executed at eight locations in Putnam and Westchester by investigators from County, local and federal law enforcement agencies. Rifles, handguns, and high-capacity drum magazines were seized. Some of the weapons lacked a serial number, making them so-called ghost guns, and other weapons had defaced serial numbers. Several silencers, ballistic vests, counterfeit police shields and quantities of ammunition were also seized in the probe, dubbed Operation Casper. The investigation was launched in June 2021 with the creation of a task force to address an influx of ghost guns and other illegal firearms into the region.  The multi-agency Real Time Crime Center was tasked with finding innovative ways to reduce gun crimes and prevent violence.

Ridgefield Board to set up public information sessions about marijuana sales

The Ridgefield Board of Selectmen is looking to start setting up public information sessions about marijuana sales.  The Board previously said they would do so after the first of the year and are currently looking at the February meeting calendar. 

When Connecticut legalized recreational use of cannabis, it was left up to local leaders to determine how their communities would approach retail sales.  First Selectman Rudy Marconi says they will likely set up separate nights for presentations from those for and those against so they don't have arguments to back and forths, and so residents can learn more. 

Selectman Sean Connelly noted that people attending the meetings likely won't change their minds based on what they hear. 

Connecticut municipalities can either take no action, allow establishments with regulations, ban them, or impose a temporary moratorium.  When medical marijuana was approved in Connecticut, Ridgefield put a temporary pause on facilities, and later banned them. 

Danbury sets up COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics at schools during winter break

The Danbury Department of Health & Human Services has set up COVID-19 Vaccine Clinics at the schools during winter break this week. These clinics will take place in the cafeterias, and no appointment is needed.

The first are being held tonight, from 4pm to 7pm, at Danbury Primary Center, Stadley Rough Elementary, Hayestown Avenue Elementary, and Pembroke Elementary.  Second dose clinics will be February 28th. 

Tomorrow's clinics are also 4pm to 7pm at King Street Primary/Intermediate and Park Avenue Elementary.  Second doses will be administered March 1st. 

On Wednesday from 4pm to 7, the clinics are being held at Mill Ridge Primary and Morris Street Elementary. Second doses on March 2.  On Thursday, the clinics are from 3pm to 7 at Broadview Middle School, Ellsworth Elementary, and Westside Middle School.  Second doses administered on March 3. 

Next Tuesday, the 15th, there will be clinics from 3pm to 7 at Danbury High School and 4pm to 7 at Western Connecticut Academy of International Studies.  Those second dose clinics will be March 8th.

Fugitive from North Carolina arrested in Bethel

A fugitive from North Carolina has been arrested in Bethel.  Police received information Friday that a suspect in a shooting from Greenville, North Carolina was in Bethel.  The suspect, “Freedom Shapel Morris”, was wanted for assault with a deadly weapon and intent to kill.  Officers learned that Morris was staying at the Microtel on Benedict Road and coordinated with the Danbury Regional Emergency Services Team.  They were able to peacefully apprehend Morris without incident.  He will be be arraigned at Danbury Superior Court today as a Fugitive from Justice.  The regional team includes members of the Danbury, Bethel, Newtown, Brookfield and Ridgefield Police Departments. 

Ridgefield man arrested for alleged role in January 6th riot rejects plea deal

A Ridgefield man arrested for his alleged role in the January 6th riot has rejected a plea deal offered by federal prosecutors.  Patrick McCaughey III was charged with assault, resisting or impeding certain officers or employees, civil disorder, entering restricted building or grounds, and violent entry or disorderly conduct.  He is accused of crushing a police officer in a door frame with a riot shield.  Investigators identified McCaughey as a suspect after video of the incident was posted to YouTube.  Information about the plea agreement was not detailed. McCaughey was released on bond in May.

Congresswoman supports veterans bill

5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes has voted in favor of a bill to automatically enroll servicemembers into the Department of Veterans Affairs care system.  An amendment offered by Hayes to require the VA to inform eligible veterans of their enrollment through multiple methods, including physical mail and email, as they transition out of the military was included in the final text of the EVEST Act.  She says veterans face many hurdles when transitioning from military to civilian life and this is meant to alleviate some of this stress by ensuring automatic access to VA benefits and care.  Hayes says she offered the amendment to strengthen communication and transparency between the VA and veterans.  The EVEST Act would result in the enrollment of 58,000 additional veterans in VA care within the first year at no cost to taxpayers. In Connecticut’s Fifth District alone, more than 4,160 veterans from Operation Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and New Dawn would gain instant eligibility.    

Newtown officials consider Library roof repairs

The Newtown Board of Finance has made recommended adjustments to the town's Capital Improvement Plan, including $420,000 be added for library repairs.  Funding would go toward roof, gutters, downspout and shutters replacements or repairs and $200,000 be put toward HVAC comprehensive upgrades.  CH Booth Library has received various quotes for replacing the roof with asphalt or making repairs to the slate roof.  These repairs have been in the Capital Improvement Plan for several years, but pushed off because they didn't know the magnitude of the roof damage at the time.  Most of the current leaks are contained, except for one in particular towards the front of the building on the third floor. 

Newtown Police Department hiring officers

The Newtown Police Department is looking to hire both certified and entry level police officers.  The deadline to apply for both is February 21st.  The posted salary for certified officers ranges from $60,000 to $87,000, commensurate with experience. The Department consists of 45 Sworn personnel in the Administrative Services, Operations Bureau, Detective Division, Patrol Division and Five Civilians. Newtown encompasses an area of 60 square miles, populated by 29,000 people. Minimum qualifications include high school graduate, or holding a GED, be at least 21 and a U.S, citizen.  Applicants can't have felony, domestic violence, A misdemeanor or B misdemeanor criminal convictions.  A driver's license is required.  Written, physical and oral exams, background check, and psychological and medical exams along with an interview with the Police Chief will be required.

Monroe Police Chief retiring

Monroe Police Chief John Salvatore will be retiring at the end of the month.  Monroe’s Board of Police Commissioners voted and offered the Chief of Police position to Captain Keith White.  Salvatore served as Chief for 23 years.  Prior to serving in Monroe, he moved up the ranks of the Wethersfield Police Department from Officer to Administrative Lieutenant, over 20 years.

Danbury offering radon test kits to residents

The Danbury Department of Health & Human Services is offering free radon test kits to Danbury residents. Officials say it's important to know the radon levels in a home because it's 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.  There is a $10 deposit fee, which will be reimbursed when the radon test kit is returned. 

Southbury looking to hire part time Assistant Animal Control Officer

The Town of Southbury is currently accepting applications for the position of Assistant Animal Control Officer, on a per diem or as needed basis. This person receives and responds to complaints regarding domestic animals and wildlife from the general public and enforces all relevant State and Town laws, ordinances and policies.  Applicants must have a current Connecticut Animal Control Officer Certification or be willing to complete certification within one year.

Greater Danbury COVID-19 statistics updated by state DPH

According to the latest COVID-19 data from the state Department of Public Health, Danbury reported 747 cases in the last two weeks.  Bethel has had 153 cases, there were 142 COVID cases in Brookfield, and New Fairfield reported 106.  There were 265 COVID cases in New Milford, 225 in Newtown, Redding reported 42 cases in the last two weeks while Ridgefield had 171. 

The state department of Public Health is reporting COVID-19 case rates for the Greater Danbury area were cut in half for the second week in a row.  Case rates for the week ending January 29th range from 33 to 70 per 100,000 population, down from a range of 58 to 121 last week. The lowest case rate is in Redding and the highest is in New Milford, based on population.    

The rates are:

Redding 32.9

Ridgefield 48.9

New Fairfield 54.6

Bethel 55.2

Newtown 57.6

Brookfield 59.8

Danbury 63

New Milford 70.6

The state Department of Public Health is reporting COVID-19 infection rates for the Greater Danbury area ranging from 10 to 20 percent, down from a range of 13 to 27 percent last week.  The lowest test positivity is in Redding and the highest is in New Fairfield.  At home COVID-19 test results are not reported to the state.  The rates are:

Redding 10 percent

Ridgefield 10.6 percent

Bethel 14.2 percent

Newtown 14.3 percent

Brookfield 15.9 percent 

New Milford 16.4 percent 

Danbury 18.1 percent 

New Fairfield 19.4 percent 

The number COVID-associated deaths in Connecticut has grown by 175 since last Thursday.  New state data released Thursday show there were more than 2,400 positive COVID cases reported since Wednesday out of more than 37,000 tests.  The daily positivity rate was 6.57 percent.  The state is also reporting a 5.84 percent breakthrough rate of COVID-19 infections among the state's fully vaccinated population.  That's the same as last week. 

The number of COVID hospitalizations dropped by 66, for a total of 869.  52.5 percent of those patients are not fully vaccinated.  Compared to being vaccinated against COVID-19, being unvaccinated has a relative risk 7 times higher of being hospitalized with and 15 times higher of dying of COVID, according to the state Department of Public Health.  Being unvaccinated has a 3 times higher risk of being infected with COVID.

Officer cleared in two shootings promoted to Sgt.

A Danbury Police Officer who was recently reinstated after being cleared in two investigations into shooting two men has been promoted. 

Alexander Relyea was confirmed to the position of Sergeant by the City Council at their meeting this week.  Four others were also promoted.  The 35-year-old Relyea ranked 2nd on the current police sergeant eligibility list.

Mayor Dean Esposito says he has contributed to the department through roles he has served in community affairs and the K-9 unit. 

In December 2018, Relyea shot and killed Paul Arbitelle during a confrontation at the Glen Apartments.  In July 2019, he shot and injured Aaron Bouffard during a search for the man who caused a disturbance at MCCA.  He remained on paid administrative leave for more than two years, until this fall, when he was exonerated in both cases.

Esposito says Relyea has received numerous letters of appreciation and accommodation for going above and beyond his role as a police officer, including a meritorious citation in March 2015 for arresting three burglary suspects and a unit citation in 2017 for arresting a gunman who was threatening people.

Report of mother, son trapped in Brewster house fire unfounded

Reports of a mother and son still trapped in a Brewster home fully engulfed in flames Wednesday morning turned out to be unfounded. Brewster Fire Department was dispatched to Carmel Avenue on a report of a fire around 8:30am.  Firefighters made several attempts to enter the burning home to search for the trapped residents but were driven back by the intense fire. A short time later it was learned that the two escaped before firefighters arrived.  The gas-fed fire was difficult to extinguish, until NYSEG was able to shut the gas main.  No injuries were reported.  The Red Cross is assisting the displaced families.  Mutual aid was provided by Carmel, Mahopac, Putnam Lake, Patterson and Croton Falls.  South Salem and Bedford Hills covered Brewster and Croton Falls fire districts. North Salem, Carmel ambulance, Putnam County Medic 3 and Ambulanz EMS supervisor stood by at the scene. 

Car fire extinguished in Bethel

During the Bethel Fire Department's monthly membership meeting last night, firefighters were dispatched to a reported car fire at the Caraluzzi's market parking lot.  Crews arrived to find a car in the middle of the lot with the blaze still contained to the engine compartment.  The flames were quickly extinguished and crews were able to prevent the fire from spreading to the passenger compartment.  No one was injured and no other cars or structures were involved.

Furnace fire in Monroe home extinguished

A house fire in Monroe was quickly extinguished Thursday night.  All three of the town's volunteer fire departments responded to Fan Hill Road and found smoke coming from the door.  Smoke was throughout the house, but the fire was contained to the furnace.  Firefighters metered for carbon monoxide and used a fan to ventilate the home. Residents are being reminded to have their furnaces inspected and cleaned annually.

Municipalities awarded grants to improve accessibility, pedestrian and bicycle safety

A few area municipalities are among 17 receiving Department of Transportation grants for projects meant to improve mobility and accessibility, as well as pedestrian and bicycle safety.  $8.2 million is being distributed in the fourth round of awards in the Community Connectivity Grant Program. 

Southbury was awarded $444,946 for pedestrian safety improvements identified in the Main Street South Pedestrian Safety Study.  Bethlehem will use $204,105 for sidewalk improvements and accessibility upgrades.  Oxford was awarded $489,621 for projects at Little River Nature Preserve and Municipal Center. 

They are expected to complete the project within three years.

Transportation Commissioner Joseph Giulietti says the grant program also facilitates social and economic opportunities for underserved communities by providing equitable levels of access to safe and affordable transportation.  With this fourth round of funding, 104 awards totaling more than $38 million will have been invested in Connecticut’s towns and cities under the program during the past four years.

Ridgefield residents OK ARPA funding for COVID test kits

Ridgefield residents have voted to allocate $344,480 from the town’s share of American Rescue Plan Act fund to cover the recent purchase of more than 17,000 at home COVID test kits.  The approval was given at a town meeting Wednesday.  Ridgefield does have some of the kits remaining for distribution.  An informal group is working to determine how to use the remaining ARPA funds, based on guidance from the U-S Treasury Department.  Any expenditure would have to be approved via public hearing, town meeting or a referendum.

Danbury COVID-19 case rate cut in half

Danbury has reported 747 COVID-19 cases to the state Department of Public Health in the last two weeks ending January 29th.  The case rate has been cut in half from last week and is down to 63 cases per 100,000 population.  Danbury has a test positivity rate of 18.1 percent, down from 27 percent last week. All but two of Connecticut's municipalities remain in the redzone alert level for COVID-19 community spread.  Norfolk has joined Canaan in the grey zone with fewer than 5 cases per 100,000 population while the other 167 municipalities in the state have 15 or more cases per 100,000 population over the last two weeks. 

Driver injured in truck crash down I-84 embankment

A truck carrying powdered coffee creamer and protein mixes went down an embankment off I-84 eastbound in Newtown early yesterday morning and rolled over.  The driver was transported to the hospital.  The state Department of Consumer Protection says the cargo was destroyed in the accident, which happened around 1:30am.  The highway was closed between exits 9 and 10 due to the crash.  State police say one person was transported to the hospital for minor injuries.  The cargo spread out all down the embankment and the Department of Consumer Protection was unable to retrieve the bill of lading “or other paperwork” from the wreck.
 

Questions arise over tweaks to traffic study on proposed development in Danbury

The Danbury Planning Commission has held the first public hearing into a mixed use development proposal off Mill Plain Road.  WestConn Park is planning to have 200 residential units in three buildings, a bank, a restaurant, two retail buildings, and two office buildings, one with a 1st floor garage. 

Traffic volume generated by the project was expected to raise a number of questions, but one only briefly covered because the City's traffic engineers had not yet returned their analysis report.  During the hearing, the traffic engineer for the applicant, Joe Balskus, touched briefly on the estimated number of trips generated, the traffic signal proposed for Amity Lane and the impact on 5 nearby intersections. 

He did not note at the time that they altered the plan submitted to the Planning Commission.  When asked about the difference later by Commission Chair Arnold Finaldi, he said they only changed the estimates at Kenosia Avenue and plan to make additional tweaks.  Deputy Planning Director Jennifer Emminger said staff spent a lot of time reviewing the submitted report and it was unfair to make tweaks at the 9th hour before hearing, especially without saying that it was done while making the brief presentation.

To access the site, the applicant is proposing significant improvements to Amity Lane.  The private narrow road would be widened, extended, and signalized to provide access to the commercial and residential components. The plans and traffic study indicate there are right-of-way improvements proposed along Mill Plain Road, including exclusive left turn lane on the eastbound approach, exclusive right turn lane on the westbound approach. 

Two unsignalized driveways are planned, one approximately 2,200 feet east of Amity Lane to primarily serve the bank and restaurant uses. The other would be located approximately 3,600 feet east of Site Drive 2, primarily for the retail and mixed use spaces on the site.

Feds amend Connecticut's Hurricane Ida disaster declaration

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A federal disaster declaration approved last year after remnants of Hurricane Ida hit Connecticut has been amended. Gov. Ned Lamont announced Thursday it will now include damage that occurred in Fairfield and Litchfield counties to public infrastructure. Local governments in both counties can now apply for federal reimbursement of 75% of the costs associated with uninsured storm damage to public infrastructure. Local governments can also receive partial reimbursement for emergency response costs. A request is still pending to allow governments in Middlesex and New London counties to also seek reimbursement. The original declaration allowed individuals in Fairfield, New Haven and New London counties to seek assistance.

Bridgewater Volunteer Fire Department planning to host annual Fair

The Bridgewater Volunteer Fire Department is planning to host the Bridgewater Fair this year, August 19th through 21st. The fair was cancelled two years in a row due to the pandemic.  The fundraiser generates 90-percent of their budget.  The firefighters don't take tax dollars to operate apparatus, pay for training, maintain property and recruit new members.  Bridgewater is the last self-sustaining volunteer fire department in the state.  The volunteers own and maintain all the apparatus, land, and buildings and pay for all the training from donations and the Annual Fair.

New Fairfield VFD replaces batteries in airpack Personal Alert Safety System

New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department members did some routine upkeep on equipment this week.  Firefighters changed the batteries in their Self Contained Breathing Apparatus PASS device.  The Personal Alert Safety System or Distress Signal Unit is primarily used by firefighters entering a hazardous environment such as a burning building.  The loud alert notifies others in the area that the firefighter is in distress. PASS device is integrated into an SCBA unit. It is connected by a hose to the air circuit and arms automatically when the air circuit is opened.

Hit & run on I-84 under investigation

A hit and run accident on I-84 is under investigation.  State Police say a light-colored SUV merged into the right lane, sideswiping a Honda Civic near the eastbound Exit 5 Sunday, shortly before 2pm.  The Honda swerved and hit the metal beam guide rail and a center median concrete barrier.  The SUV kept going.  The other driver was uninjured, but his vehicle had to be towed.  Anyone with information is asked to contact State Police.

Regional Animal Control has big interest in puppy found in New Milford

Regional Animal Control in New Milford says there's been a lot of interest in a dog found in the middle of Route 202 on Tuesday morning.  The white pit mix is about 8 weeks old and was brought to Candlewood Animal Hospital for evaluation. She is currently on stray-hold in the pound as her owner has not yet come forward. The puppy will be transferred to Animal Welfare Society if she is not claimed, screened for any diseases and then offered for adoption.

New location for residents looking to help Redding PTA with STEAM Fair item donation

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 Transfer Station and Town Hall during open hours.  The STEAM Fair is April 23rd, and has a theme supporting nature and Earth Day. 

Former Tuxedo Junction building approved for sale by City to Savings Bank of Danbury

Danbury has approved the sale of the former Tuxedo Junction building to Savings Bank of Danbury.  The City purchased 3 Post Office Street in 2017 for $395,000 after it sat vacant for two years.  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. 

Councilman Ben Chianese opposed the sale, but supports the corner of White and Main Streets being developed.  At Tuesday night's Council meeting, he suggested the proposal go back to a committee to look into whether the City could lease the land to Savings Bank of Danbury instead of selling it outright.  The motion was rejected.

According to Vision Appraisal, the City owned parcel is worth $606,000. Negotiations on the sale price are expected after an official appraisal is completed.

Savings Bank of Danbury CEO Martin Morgado says the new location will enable them to consolidate operations and provide dynamic meeting space and operations facilities.  He hopes to gain all necessary approvals and have the new building opened by the end of 2023. 

Plans call for moving a transformer that's on another part of property they're looking to develop to the Tuxedo space.  There could be some parking, but Post Office Walk frontage will be grass and bushes.  Morgado noted that this will also give them the possibility to expand in the future. 

The vote was 16 in favor, two opposed, two absent and one abstention.  Ben Chianese and Duane Perkins voted in the negative, Farley Santos abstained.

Mayor reverses course, will allow public speaking on more items at meetings

Danbury residents will once again be able to make remarks during the public speaking portion of Danbury City Council meetings on items included in the Department reports.  Mayor Dean Esposito stopped residents at every meeting since his election in November, saying that the City Charter only allowed comments on items specifically on the agenda, and last month the Department Reports no longer were a numbered item on the agenda. 

Esposito says he is a rookie and went by the rules, but has been advised by council leadership on both sides of the aisle that it would be a better practice to allow input from the community. 

Residents tried to ask questions about homeless services, public works items and police information among other topics.  The new rule at City Council meetings is that if there's time during the 30 minutes of public speaking, after everyone who wants to speak on numbered items, will be able to discuss things included in department reports.

Danbury City Councilwoman to resign

Some changes are coming to City government in Danbury.  City Councilwoman Colleen Stanley is resigning because she is moving out of Danbury.  The Republican Town Committee will make a nomination on her replacement.  Stanley was elected in November to a new two year term.  She was first elected to the Council in 2003, but resigned in 2015 when she moved out of town. She later moved back to the city, and was appointed in 2016 to fill a vacancy on the Council.  Legislative Assistant Jean Natale took part in her final City Council meeting Tuesday night.  Council President Vincent DiGilio read a proclamation recognizing her service. Several members then made remarks honoring her long service to the City.

Negotiations for Danbury Career Academy site fall apart

SC Ridge Summit developers plan to meet today with Danbury Mayor Dean Esposito about how to move forward with negotiations for the City to buy three pods of the former Matrix Center so they can be retrofitted for the Danbury Career Academy, a public middle and high school for 14-hundred students.  The Danbury City Council did not end up taking action on related items at their meeting Tuesday night because negotiations broke down.  The Council was set to consider project cost increases of nearly 50-percent, authorization of 4 million dollars for design services and a downpayment on the proposed 19 million dollar site sale price.  Superintendent Kevin Walston emailed the Board of Ed saying negotiations “collapsed” for the Summit site.  He noted that the Career Academy is still moving forward, and that the setback only affects the location on which students and teachers will sit.

Danbury Senior Center has more COVID-19 at-home test kits for distribution

Danbury Senior Center has received more COVID-19 at-home test kits from the City for distribution, but it's a limited supply.  The kits are free for residents over the age of 60.  Anyone in need of a test kit can call or drop by Elmwood Hall. They will be distributed on a first come first serve basis.  Danbury Senior Center will deliver to residents who lack transportation, but those senior should call the senior center at 203-797-4686 to make delivery arrangements. Proof of age and residency is required for distribution.

Special meeting today about 'granny pods' in Danbury

A special meeting of the Danbury Planning Commission is being held this afternoon.  The City is looking to opt out of a state requirement for the allowance of accessory apartments as of right on each lot that contains a single-family dwelling.  Starting this year, accessory apartments, which are also known as garage apartments, in-law suites or granny pods, 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 Zoning Commission public hearing on the matter is set for March 8th.  The Planning Commission will discuss the petition at a 3pm virtual special meeting.

Ribbon cut on new Saint Joseph Parenting Center

The Saint Joseph Parenting Center has opened its second location, in Danbury.  The ribbon was cut yesterday at 46 Stone Street, a downtown location accessible by public transportation.  The nonprofit was founded in Stamford in 2009 and offers parenting education classes for those with children 12 and under.  Classes are expected to begin next month in English and Spanish, but the center could add Portuguese courses.  Parents are typically referred through the court system, Department of Children and Families or other similar agency.  Some parents are mandated to attend, others may join voluntarily.  Programs target families who may be at risk for child abuse and neglect, teaching parents about child development, communication, budgeting, life skills and other topics.  The center operates on donors, grants and fundraising.

Danbury Career Academy items pulled from City Council agenda

The Danbury City Council did not end up taking action on items related to the proposed Career Academy at their meeting last night. There were three items on the agenda related to cost increases of nearly 50-percent on the original bonding, authorization of $4 million for design services and a downpayment on the $19 million proposed sale price.  Officials say negotiations are still ongoing and more details were needed before discussion and possible action.

Murphy announces winners of 'Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Essay Challenge

Senator Chris Murphy has announced the 15 winning essays of his sixth annual ‘Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Essay Challenge.’  He received more than 22-hundred entries from elementary, middle, and high school students from across Connecticut reflecting on Dr. King’s dream and their own aspirations.  In the 5th Congressional District, the 3 winners included Bethel High School's Allison Amaya and Lydon Tessier from Whisconier Middle School.  In the 4th District one of the 3 winners was Amy McCabe of Miller-Driscoll School in Wilton.  Murphy says he's impressed each year by the students across Connecticut who submit essays of their reflections on Dr. King and their own dreams for a more just future.

Stony Hill firefighters get briefing on new battery powered buses

A group of Stony Hill Volunteer Fire Company volunteers have attended a demonstration of new battery powered buses starting to roll out on the streets in Connecticut. A representative from manufacturer New Flyer went over the bus from front to back and explained safety protocols, how to shut down the high voltage system and various other topics.  The information session was hosted by CTtransit.

Two men arrested on weapons, drug charges following Bethel accident

Bethel Police have arrested two men after drugs and weapons were found in a vehicle during an accident investigation.  Police responded to a single car crash near Payne and Shelter Rock roads early Saturday morning.  The driver, 28-year old Koffi Mosley of New Milford was charged with weapon possession after officers found a police-style baton.  The passenger, later determined to be 26-year old Jary Perdomo of Danbury, provided a fake name, refused officers' orders and was found in possession of 11 grams of crack-cocaine and five .32 caliber bullets.

Conn. man turned himself in on DUI charge stemming from December crash

A Connecticut man has turned himself in to Bethel Police on a DUI charge stemming from a December crash.  57-year old Anthony Delladonna of Fairfield turned himseld in Monday and was released on bond for a court appearance next week.  On December 16th, Bethel Police responded to a multi-vehicle accident on Plumtrees Road.  An investigation determined that Delladonna crossed the double-yellow line and sideswiped another vehicle, and hit a 3rd vehicle head-on.  The sideswiped car went into the opposite lane, hitting another vehicle head-on.  Delladonna and an occupant of another vehicle sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

Concerns raised on proposed mixed use development in Danbury ahead of hearing

A public hearing is being held tonight by the Danbury Planning Commission for a mixed use development proposal on the City's westside.  Westconn Park LLC is applying for a special exception/site plan approval for a vacant lot across from Mill Plain Diner, abutting West Conn's westside campus.  The 30 acre proposal calls for retail, offices, bank with drive-thru, restaurant and housing. 

City staff commented on the potential problem of access should an emergency along or within the main access drive prevent access to any part of the development, including the congregate housing and residential development or if an evacuation of residents is required.  In pre-application meetings with the applicant and its representatives, the Office of the Fire Marshal, the Traffic Engineer, and Planning staff say the issue of public safety is a serious concern that requires mitigation and a second means of access must be provided.  The applicant must propose a designed emergency access road.  The applicant must also provide a plan that addresses snow removal or winter maintenance on the site.

The Planning and Zoning Department questioned the lack of pedestrian connectivity throughout the development, including sidewalks connecting the three apartment buildings and the recreational facility, sidewalks along the main access drive, and sidewalks along the frontage of the property. Officials say the absence of connecting sidewalks within the development promotes and encourages auto dependency as the primary means of access, rather than walking or bicycling.  The lack of sidewalks also provides little to no options for residents and school age children who require access to school bus or public transportation along Mill Plain Road. 

The 425,000 square-foot mixed use development would generate over 500 vehicle trips per day.  The property is adjacent to West Conn's Westside campus and would have more than three acres set aside as a recreational area.  Plans call for 200,000 square feet of housing units with a clubhouse pool and tennis courts, 80,000 square feet for an assisted living facility, and 50,000 square feet for a corporate building.  Three areas for retail space have been proposed.  Albert Salame, who has owned the property for 20 years, says tenants for 330,000 square feet of the space have been secured.  The Salame Companies, the Morganti Group Inc and Griffin Living are on board.  Griffin would operate the assisted living facility.  

The applicant is proposing to construct a 200-unit multi-family development. The plans show the construction of three 4-story apartment houses.  One building will have 66 units consisting of 32 one-bedrooms; 30 two-bedrooms; 2 three bedrooms; and 2 efficiencies. The other two buildings will each have 67 units consisting of 33 one-bedrooms; 30 two-bedrooms; 2 three bedrooms; and 2 efficiencies.

The applicant is proposing to construct six commercial buildings on 11.9 acres of land.
• Building 1 – One-story 3,840 sq. ft. bank and includes a drive-through window.
• Building 2 – One-story 5,000 sq. ft. 100-seat restaurant.
• Building 3 – Two-story 30,400 sq. ft. retail building.
• Building 4 – One-story 1,820 sq. ft. retail/restaurant building.
• Building 5 – Two-story 34,080 sq. ft. mixed-use office and retail building.
• Building 6 – Three-story 51,120 sq. ft. office building with 1st floor garage.

Tonight's hearing is being held during the Danbury Planning Commission meeting, which starts at 7:30pm and is being held via zoom.

COVID-19 PCR testing coming to New Fairfield

COVID-19 PCR testing is coming to New Fairfield.  The town has contracted with Curative to set up a site at the Company A Community Room starting on Feb. 17th.  Testing will be done by appointment Mondays through Fridays 8am to 4pm until mid-April.  The test site does not have residency restrictions so appointments can be made by people who don't live in New Fairfield.  Walk ins could be fit in, but the site is primarily operating by appointment. 

First Selectman Pat Del Monaco says the only possibility for testing partners two months ago was to work through the state, but Connecticut wouldn't commit to a pop up test site in New Fairfield due to the proximity to Danbury.  The Health Department then learned two other municipalities and several in Massachusetts are using Curative. 

There is no cost to the town for this operation.  For people who are uninsured, federal funding will cover the cost of the test.  Insurance will cover the cost for those who have coverage. 

Del Monaco says they talked about different hours, but it was difficult to work out a 10 to 7 schedule, so this will free up the space for anyone else to use it in the evenings. 

New Fairfield Police investigating catalytic converter thefts

New Fairfield Police are investigating catalytic converter thefts.  Police say the exhaust emission control devices from two vans parked at the New Fairfield Senior Center were stolen during the overnight hours of Monday into Tuesday.  The high value of metal in the devices is believed to be a driving force nationwide behind an increase in catalytic converter thefts.  Officials say vehicles with high clearance are common targets because they provide easier access to the devices.  Anyone with information or video footage that may help the investigation in New Fairfield is asked to call the Police Department at 203-312-5701.

Brookfield Police Chief works last day for the Department

After 38 years of service, Brookfield Police Chief James Purcell has worked his last day for the Department. Purcell started his law enforcement career in Brookfield on December 1983, when he was sworn in as a Patrolman, and promoted to Chief in 2017. In 2006, Purcell graduated from the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. Throughout his career, Purcell earned numerous awards, citations, and letters of commendation. Chief John Puglisi says Purcell has been a dedicated and inspirational boss to work for, adding that his  tutelage has prepared this department to succeed in his absence.

Easton man sentenced for producing photos of sexual abuse of child

An Easton man has been sentenced for producing photographs and videos of his sexual abuse of a young child.  42-year old Robert McGuire was sentenced yesterday to 30 years in prison, followed by a lifetime of supervised release.  Prosecutors say McGuire repeatedly sexually abused a child between February 2019 and June 2020, and took photographs and videos.  The investigation also revealed that McGuire sexually assaulted a second child on at least one occasion.  McGuire has been detained since his arrest by Easton Police on related state charges in July 2020. The state charges are pending.

Bethel official wants of 'long COVID' symptoms

Bethel's COVID-19 case rate continues to decline.  For the second second consecutive week, the rate of new cases per 100,000 population, fell from an all time high of about 217 cases to 105 this week.  Test positivity fell to 20-percent.  But First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker continued to urge residents to keep following all of the usual safety precautions.  He notes that while Omicron is dominant in Connecticut, and has been described by some as being “milder” than the Alpha or Delta variants, Omicron is still a potent disease that can result in so-called “long COVID” symptoms lasting for months, such as extreme fatigue and “brain fog.”  Currently in Bethel, 81% of residents have initiated the vaccine process and 72% are now fully vaccinated, 35% have received the booster. 

Newtown Health District hosting COVID-19 vaccine booster clinic today

The Newtown Health District is hosting a Moderna COVID-19 vaccine booster clinic today at the Municipal Center on Primrose Street.  The clinic from 4:30 to 6:30pm is for individuals age 18 and up.  This is by appointment only, no walk-ins will be accommodated.  There is a link to sign up through the Newtown town website.  Those receiving a booster dose are reminded to bring their vaccine card.

Bethel to send out info on new districts, polling place due to redistricting

Every 10 years following the Census, the State Legislature undertakes a Redistricting to rebalance the population for each district for State Senate and State House of Representatives. The Bethel Registrars of Voters are now editing the Connecticut Voter Registration System to assign Bethel’s streets to their respective districts.

Bethel is still split, falling within House District 107 to the north and District 2 to the south. However, effective next January, Bethel will no longer be in Senate Districts 24 and 26.  The southern part of Bethel will be part of District 28 and the northern portion will be part of the 32nd.

In the coming months, Bethel voters will receive a mailing that indicates their districts and polling place. The new maps are effective in 2023, but the election for these new districts will be held this year in November.

Southbury Police seek ID for beer theft suspect

The Southbury Police Department is looking to identify a white male, who is a suspect in a larceny.  The man is suspected of a theft at Stop and Shop on Monday, shortly before 3pm, accused of stealing five 30 packs of beer totalling $160.  He was wearing a Carhartt hoodie and camo baseball cap with a leather decal on the front.  Anyone with information regarding the identity of this person, is asked to contact Ofc. Alfano at (203) 264-5912. All calls will be kept confidential.

Danbury Hospital adjusts visitor policy as COVID-19 cases decline

Due to the decline in COVID-19 cases in the Greater Danbury area, Danbury Hospital is once again revising their visitation policy.  Effective today, patients in the Emergency Department who are not confirmed or suspected to have COVID-19 will be allowed 1 non-changing support person. 

New Fairfield continues receiving COVID-19 home test kits from state

The Town of New Fairfield has distributed 1,600 at-home COVID-19 tests kits.  First Selectman Pat Del Monaco says they kept 200 on hand for first responders.  New Fairfield is receiving additional kits from the state for vulnerable populations, including for distribution to the schools.  The latest distribution from the state to the municipality was for seniors.  While the number of cases has been declining, Del Monaco says the town's test positivity rate is still the highest its ever been.  The town's Health Director doesn't feel New Fairfield is in a place yet for in person programs at the library and senior center.

Brookfield to create 'Honor Wall' to recognize servicemembers, veterans

The lobby of Brookfield Town Hall will soon be home to a service members’ display.  First Selectman Tara Carr, who served in numerous leadership positions in the Army over her more than two decade career, says photos of Brookfield residents who are currently serving or are Veterans will be place on the “Honor Wall” display.  She says this is meant to highlight and recognize their service and dedication to America. Anyone with a family member who is a current or former service member or would like to contribute time, energy, and/or talent to this project, is asked to email: adonnelly@donnellysecurity.com.  Every municipality is required by state statute to have a Veterans Service Liaison, and retired Brookfield Police Chief Robin Montgomery is serving as Brookfield's Veteran’s Service Contact Person. Resources available to Veterans can be found on the town website.

Bethel seeks volunteers for Commission vacancies

The Town of Bethel has an opening on the Public Library Board of Directors and on the Park & Recreation Commission.  Both positions are currently being held by a registered Democrat and under state law must be filled by a registered Democrat.  The new members would be expected to attend monthly meetings and any special meetings that might occur. The Public Library Board of Directors position expires in January 6, 2025 and the Park and Recreation Commission expires January 2, 2024

Nearly 50-percent cost increase projected for proposed Danbury Career Academy

A nearly 50-percent increase in costs is projected for the proposed Danbury Career Academy.  The City Council will get an update at their meeting tonight about events since $99 million in bonding was approved, which increased the costs of the project.  The new estimate is $144.5 million. 

Danbury plans to ask state lawmakers to amend the state legislation allowing for reimbursement for a higher project cost at the same 80-percent.  That new estimate is $115.6 million.  The original estimate was for a turn-key project, but the legislation was written so that it's a Public Works project with a different delivery method. 

COVID-related construction impacts on labor and costs of materials, along with inflation, are driving up the price. Detailed educational specifications were approved by the Board of Education and new space needs and specialty curriculum requirements not previously included are adding to the cost of the proposal. 

The City of Danbury is looking at a $19 million price tag to buy 3 pods at the former Matrix Center from SC Ridge for the proposed Danbury Career Academy.  The City Council is being asked for a $190,000 deposit.  Negotiations are still underway.

Despite the increase in costs, Mayor Dean Esposito says this is the most cost effective solution to taxpayers that will address Danbury's student enrollment growth, enhance property values and provide students with a unique opportunity combining classroom learning with hands-on career experience. 

Brookfield Health Department continuing to hold COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The Brookfield Health Department is continuing to hold COVID-19 vaccine clinics on a weekly basis this month.  The primary and booster clinics are on Thursdays from 3pm to 6pm. Moderna and Johnson and Johnson vaccines are available for those 18 and older.  No appointment is necessary. 

100-percent of Brookfield residents over age 65 are fully vaccinated.  78-percent of that age group have gotten a booster.  31-percent of 5 to 11 year olds are fully vaccinated.  The 12 to 17 cohort is 71-and-a-half percent, the 18 to 24 year olds are at 87 percent and the 25 to 44 year olds are about 83 percent fully vaccinated.  About 79-percent of 45 to 64 year olds are fully vaccinated in Brookfield. 

Ridgefield considers ARPA funding reimbursement for COVID-19 home test kits

The Ridgefield Board of Selectmen has scheduled a Town Meeting for Wednesday. Residents are being asked to approve the use of American Rescue Plan Act funds to cover the cost of COVID-19 at-home test kits purchased by the town. Ridgefield spent about $344,000 from the town's share of ARPA to cover the costs of the kits distributed to residents.  First Selectman Rudy Marconi told the Board of Selectmen at their meeting on January 19th that the town had about 1,500 kits left. The weekend before, he noted that 2,100 kits were handed out.  The Town Meeting Wednesday is set for 7:30pm.

Law enforcement members participate in juvenile crime forum

Some Greater Danbury area lawmakers held a virtual forum last week on juvenile justice.  New Fairfield State Representative Patrick Callahan and Brookfield Representative Steve Harding were joined by New Fairfield Resident Trooper Nick Ieraci and Danbury Police Sgt. John Krupinsky, who talked about day-to-day experience in responding to reports of stolen vehicles.  Both mentioned specific incidences when juveniles told them that an arrest is not seen as a deterrent or punishment for their actions because long-term consequences resulting from crimes committed at a young age are inconsequential. 

Callahan says the state has reached a breaking point with the juvenile justice system, adding that too many reforms have weakened the system.  He says this led to spikes in motor vehicle thefts and eft many vulnerable young adults susceptible to coercion by gangs. 

Callahan and Harding serve on the Judiciary Committee.  They note that there are over a half dozen diversionary programs for juveniles to utilize before any jail time is determined by the court.  They back continuation of these programs, stressing rehabilitation as a priority.

New Fairfield state Rep. to seek reelection

A local lawmaker has announced his bid for reelection.  New Fairfield State Representative Patrick Callahan was first elected in 2020.  The 108th district includes portions of New Fairfield, Danbury, Sherman, and New Milford. Callahan has co-sponsored legislation leading to harsher penalties on sex offenders, expanding dental and eye care to children in danger of aging out of their existing plans, and achieved a 100% pro-business voting report from the Connecticut Business Industry Association.  Callahan serves on the legislature’s Education, Environment, and Judiciary committees.  He was also appointed to the Juvenile Justice Policy & Oversight Committee.  Before serving as a state representative, Callahan was the Chairman of the Candlewood Lake Authority, he was assigned to Danbury Superior Court as a Chief Probation Officer, and coached youth football and lacrosse.  

Man arrested after shooting at pigeons in Bethel

A New Milford man is facing a weapons charge after being spotted shooting at pigeons in Bethel.  Police responded to a hotel on Benedict Road for a report of a man with a rifle last Thursday.  Police say this was the third time 66-year old Antonio Amaral was seen shooting birds in the area.  He was not there when officers arrived, but later stopped less than a mile from the hotel.  An air-powered BB rifle was found unsecured in his vehicle and Amaral was charged with having a weapon in a motor vehicle. He was released on bond.

Local lawmakers wants to crack down on fentanyl

New Milford Senator Craig Miner plans to introduce several legislative proposals to address the fentanyl crisis in Connecticut. This package includes increased penalties for fentanyl sales, establishing guidance for school districts that decide to keep naloxone in their schools, providing naloxone to schools and raising awareness about the dangers of fentanyl. Miner says the sheer number of lives lost demand strong action, saying fentanyl is a deadly poison and it must be treated as such. According to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, 2 milligrams of fentanyl, the size of a few grains of salt, can be a lethal dose.  Miner called for more awareness and stronger penalties to send a clear and powerful message that this is poison.

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