Local News

Conn. Congressional delegation push for gun safety legislation

A year ago, the House passed a bipartisan background check bill.  5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes says it has the support of over 90% of Americans.  Since then she says there have been 421 mass shootings and over 30,000 lives lost to gun violence.  Hayes called on the Senate to vote on the bill.

Senator Chris Murphy is calling on the Majority Leader to take up a House-passed bipartisan background checks bill that was sent to the chamber a year ago. 

This week, Murphy detailed the growing power and importance of the youth movement in the absence of federal gun safety legislation. He cited research, which indicates that nearly a quarter of all gun sales in the United States may occur without a background check.

United Way works to connect families to services through new nonprofit advisory board

A new nonprofit subsidiary of United Way of Western Connecticut, Prosperity Digital Marketplace LLC, has formed an Innovation and Technology Advisory Board to help the organization.  They'll develop new technologies to connect financially struggling households to social services and to businesses that will provide discounts to working families that make a little too much income to qualify for safety net services, but do not earn enough to make ends meet.  The United Way says the goal is to build a comprehensive digital platform that will more effectively and efficiently deliver services to individuals and families who work but live paycheck to paycheck, while offering innovative, online solutions to better meet the specific needs of this working population.

Danbury school officials remind parents of sick day guidelines

Danbury Public School officials are reminding parents about Sick Day Guidelines.  This comes as local and state health districts prepare for possible cases of coronavirus in this part of the country.  Danbury requires children to stay home if they have a  temperature of 100-degrees or higher until they are fever free for 24 hours without fever-reducing medication.  A severe cough, and/or chest congestion, sneezing, or chills, that will interfere with a child’s ability to participate in the school day should also prompt an absence.  If a student becomes sick at school, parents are asked to have arrangements for the child to be picked up within 30 minutes.

Local schools take precautions to protect the public from coronavirus

Connecticut is implementing the first phase of mitigation efforts to be prepared to protect the public from coronavirus.  Bethel Public School officials say they are being kept apprised of the situation.  Mitigation efforts are known as non-pharmaceutical interventions to slow virus transmission down to reduce exposure and illness.

Bethel's community mitigation plans and efforts will be implemented based on the severity of illness in town and across the state. In the schools, they are following all cleaning protocols outlined by the Department of Public Health and reinforcing the CDC’s prevention recommendations.  But Superintendent Dr Christine Carver says the most important advice is to stay home and keep your children home if you or they are feeling sick.

Danbury Public Schools are working in close collaboration with the City to take appropriate steps to reduce the risks of any potential coronavirus outbreak to the community.  District and Community Leaders met this week to review plans and to begin to anticipate the impact that the spread of the virus could have here.  

Superintendent Dr Sal Pascarella says the best thing parents can do is talk with children about washing their hands frequently to lower the risk of spreading germs. Students should not be sent to school if they show any symptom of illness and should seek medical attention if flu-like symptoms exist. 

Custodians continue to clean Danbury schools thoroughly, and have included more intensive cleaning and disinfecting to help with the reduction of touch points where germs and infection may be found.

Budget process moves forward in Bethel next week

The department head budget presentations to the Bethel Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance have been completed and are available to watch on the town's website.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker will present recommendations to the Board of Selectmen at 4:30 on Monday.  The Board will then present recommendations to Finance members at a meeting Tuesday night at 6:30.  The Board of Finance will then start deliberations, and continue at 7pm on Wednesday, if necessary.  All meetings will be held in Meeting Room A of the municipal center and are open to the public.

Woman injured in rollover accident in Newtown

A woman was injured in a roll over car accident in Newtown on Tuesday.  Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire Company responded to Berkshire Road around 10:30pm on a call of possible extrication needed.  A driver travelling in light rain fishtailed while going around a curve.  The car struck an embankment on the right shoulder and rolled onto its roof.  The vehicle came to rest between the intersections of Zoar Road and Sherman Street.  The 23-year old driver needed help getting out of the car, was checked for injuries on scene and then transported to the hospital by ambulance.  Firefighters put down Speedi-Dri to contain fluids. Berkshire was closed for approximately 30 minutes.

Retired Monroe Police officer loses battle with brain cancer

A retired Monroe Police officer has lost his battle with brain cancer. Andrew Wall retired two years ago after 22 years of service.   At the end of the Monroe budget meeting Wednesday, a Town Councilman who serves as liaison to the Monroe Police Commission shared the news.  Wall was diagnosed with terminal stage four Glioblastoma brain cancer in September of 2015.  Wall’s cancer went into remission in 2017.  His diagnosis sparked support in the community for he and his family. A GoFundMe page raised $3,350 worth of donations.

UPDATED: Tylenol caused evacuation, closure of Danbury court house

There was a brief scare at Danbury Superior Court yesterday morning.  A white powder substance was found in the lobby around 10am, but it turned out to be acetaminophen. 

Firefighters, the Police Department and Court Officers evacuated the more than 200 occupants of the building and set up a perimeter to protect the area while a HAZMAT crew tested the substance. Fire Department Spokesman James Gagliardo says it may have been a crushed pill. 

A HART bus and the West Conn student center were used to keep evacuees warm. The affected area was cleaned and the building was re-occupied within an hour. 

The incident was deemed to be accidental in nature with no threat to the public.

Lawyer: Win over transgender runner shouldn't affect suit

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Lawyers for three Connecticut high school runners suing to block the participation of transgender athletes in girls sports say recent victories on the track by one of their clients should have no bearing on the lawsuit.

Chelsea Mitchell, of Canton High School, beat transgender runner Terry Miller, of Bloomfield High School, in the 55-meter dash this month in both the Connecticut State Class S indoor track meet and the state open.

Mitchell and two other Connecticut high school runners filed a lawsuit this month seeking to block a state policy that allows high school athletes to compete based on the gender they identify with, arguing transgender girls have an unfair physical advantage.

In seeking to become defendants in the lawsuit, lawyers for Miller and Andraya Yeawood, another transgener athlete, point to Mitchell’s Class S victory as evidence that the plaintiffs’ argument is faulty.

But in a court filing Wednesday, Mitchell’s lawyers argue that her wins over Miller do nothing to undermine the underlying argument that transgender athletes have unfair advantages.

“What Plaintiffs alleged — and what is true — is that due to physiological differences, female athletes cannot beat ‘comparably talented and trained’ males,” Mitchell’s attorneys wrote. “And if Chelsea beat Miller by a hair in a particular race, Miller nevertheless deprived one girl of the second-place title in that race, and pushed the third-fastest girl off the victory podium entirely.”

These are the first races in the seniors’ high school careers that Miller has lost to Mitchell.

New Fairfield firefighters caution residents not to charge phones, tablets in bed

The New Fairfield Volunteer Fire Department is cautioning people to a fire hazard for people who keep cell phones close by at night.  If you charge your phone in bed, fire officials say you might be unintentionally putting yourself in harm's way.  The fire company recently shared a photo on Facebook from a department in New Hampshire showing burned sheets and a charred charger. 

When a phone or tablet is charged on the bed or under a pillow, the heat generated cannot dissipate and the charger will become hotter and hotter--with the likely result of the pillow or bed catching fire. 

According to a 2014 National Sleep Foundation poll, 45 percent of parents and 30 percent of children sleep with a tablet or smartphone in the bedroom. Of that group surveyed, 28 percent of parents and 35 percent of children admitted to sometimes leaving their devices on at night.

Regional Hospice in Danbury adding floor dedicated to pediatric patients

Regional Hospice in Danbury will be adding a floor dedicated to pediatric patients near the end-of-life. President and CEO Cynthia Roy says the new wing is focused on providing a comforting respite for children that enter the center, with plans for a starry-skied ceiling, a comfortably designed environment, and beds that have the ability to go out on the patio to bring patients into nature.  Roy lost her best friend, Leslie, to leukemia when she was 16.  When Leslie was sick, she didn’t have the opportunity to go outside. Roy says one of the most important things was to have a center where beds could actually go out into the garden and patients could feel the sunshine on their face.  The designs can be viewed on Regional Hospice’s website.

Lawmakers want a say in college consolidation, mergers

The Connecticut Board of Regents for Higher Education is pushing ahead with a plan to consolidate the state's 12 community colleges.  Lawmakers want to have an officials say in the merger or closing of institutions within the Connecticut state colleges and universities.  A bill up for a hearing yesterday  would require legislative approval.  While not part of the consolidation plan currently moving forward, members of the General Assembly want a say on matters pertaining to West Conn, Eastern, Southern, and Central as well.

Danbury seeks to replace turf fields using bond money up for April vote

Danbury is looking to replace three artificial turf fields: Steve Kaplanis Field at Broadview, Rogers Park Field and the Danbury High field. The one at the high school was replaced 7 or 8 years ago, but Mayor Mark Boughton says when the warranty is up, there's a liability issue.  

If the field doesn't pass annual g-force rating testing, the city is responsible for any injury someone may get on the field. The test is supposed to mimic a child's head coming down on the field and what the reaction is of that surface to protect the child. 

Based on priority, one field will be done each year for the next three years.  The work will cost about $3 million.  Public Works Director Antonio Iadarola says they have great drainage, but there are downfalls to having artificial turf. 

Tylenol prompts brief evacuation of Danbury court house

Danbury Superior Courthouse was evacuated this morning because of a white powder substance.  A HAZMAT crew was called to test the substance, which turned out to be acetaminophen.  Fire Department Spokesman James Gagliardo says the substance may have been a crushed pill.  A HART bus and the West Conn student center are being used to keep evacuees warm.  The powder was found in the lobby shortly before 10:30am. 

State Police identify man killed in Newtown car crash

State Police have identified the driver killed in a single car crash yesterday on I-84 in Newtown.  Police say 69-year old Harold Gilligan of Springfield, Massachusetts was headed eastbound around 2pm when he traveled off the right side of the roadway.  His car came to rest in a wooded area off the right shoulder between exits 10 and 11.  Gilligan was pronounced dead on the scene by EMS personnel.  The vehicle was towed from the scene.  The case remains under investigation. 

Danbury couple arrested by Norwalk Police for alleged child abuse

A Danbury couple has been arrested by Norwalk Police for allegedly hitting a child with a phone cord wire and making the child hold books over their head until it hurt as a form of punishment.  Norwalk Police received a complaint of child abuse from the Connecticut Department of Children and Families on January 16th.  Police say the child was struck with a belt on multiple occasions by 31-year old Liseth Castillo-Cruz and her boyfriend, 35-year old Jose Valenzuela.  On Monday, arrest warrants were issued for the couple.  Detectives located Valenzuela and Castillo-Cruz at separate locations in Danbury yesterday.  Both were charged with Risk of Injury to a Minor and Cruelty to Persons.  Valenzuela was also charged with Assault.  They are each due in court on March 6th.

National Heritage Area Bill introduced to protect funding for the Upper Housatonic Valley

5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes has introduced the National Heritage Area Bill to protect funding for the Upper Housatonic Valley for another 15 years. Hayes says the park generates $169.9 million in economic impact, supports 1,944 jobs, and generates $15.0 million in tax revenue annually.  She added that the protection of areas like this is essential to preserving Connecticut's history and natural resources. The current authorization is set to expire in 2021. National Heritage Areas are designated by Congress as places of natural, cultural and historic importance.  The Upper Housatonic Valley spans the watershed of the upper Housatonic River, covering eight towns in Connecticut and eighteen in Massachusetts. 

Sacred Heart students help Easton firefighters make recruitment video

The Easton Volunteer Fire Department has hosted neighboring departments to do a variety of training evolutions which were filmed by Sacred Heart University students.  The training will be part of a recruitment video for volunteer firefighting.  Firefighters from Stepney and Stevenson in Monroe and others were on hand for the session. The video will highlight some of what volunteer firefighters do, with the goal of creating interest among residents to join their respective departments.

Bethel Fire Apparatus Committee recommends complete inspection for out-of-service truck

The Bethel Fire Apparatus Committee is recommending the town sign off on $1,400 to have a complete inspection done on an aerial fire truck, which is currently out of service because the ladder won't extend. 

The Committee was formed as Bethel officials look into the best option for getting a working aerial ladder truck in town for the Bethel Fire Department.  Stony Hill Fire Company will also likely need an aerial truck in the near future due to growth in that section of town.  They currently do not have one. 

If the funding is approved, Committee Chairman Richard Thode says a representative from manufacturer Sutphen will come out and do a complete inspection of the truck.  First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker agreed it would be worthwhile.  Thode says corporate will then give the committee a status of the truck and a price for repairs.  While any repair won't guarantee another 20 years of life for the truck, it would get it back in service. 

Thode says the committee was told the truck was a pet project of Sutphen and there were no records, but the representative relayed that he found that hard to believe.  Thode was asked to give the company the chassis number, because the representative was sure they have the records since it's a 2006.  If it was built in the 70s, it could be plausible that the records don't exist.

Fatal accident closed part of I-84 in Newtown during evening commute

A fatal accident closed part of I-84 in Newtown yesterday afternoon and into the evening commute.  State Police say the single car crash happened around 2pm, between exits 10 and 11 eastbound.  The car reportedly hit the median.  The Department of Transportation initially only closed the right lane, but an hour later, State Police closed all lanes. 

The DOT reported traffic backed up for nearly 12 miles, back to exit 3.  As police and firefighters worked to clear the scene, only the right lane remained closed around 4:30pm.  All lanes were reopened shortly before 7pm.

It is unclear at this time how many people were in the vehicle. 


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