Local News

New classrooms, elevators proposed in Danbury bond package

A public information meeting was held this week in Danbury about a proposed 62 million dollar bond package. Some of the money would be dedicated to adding new classroom space at the middle school level and renovating the Osborne Street Administrative Building into classroom space.

Mayor Mark Boughton says after engineering and architecture plans are drawn up, they may determine a pre-k center is needed to centralize those operations.  He added that the City could decide a new school is needed, but that has yet to be determined.

Boughton says it's frustrating for everyone when an elevator at Danbury High School goes down for two months.  He says it's not for lack of paying the bills or lack of money in the budget, it's because the infrastructure is so old that the City can't get the parts anymore.  The building department has struggled for years to fix the elevators because it could take two to three months to have special pieces machined and then installed. 

The bond package calls for new elevators at DHS, Broadview Middle School, and Rogers Park Middle School.  Boughton says this is critical to meeting ADA and Special Education requirements.  C and D wing have elevators from the early 1960s.  In E wing, Rogers Park and Broadview, it will be a modernization. 

That part of the bond bill is estimated at $1.5 million.

WCSU student athletes earn NCAA Team Works Community Service Competition award

Student athletes at West Conn have earned the NCAA Team Works Community Service Competition award.  The Division III award went to West Conn.  430 student athletes participated in the campus wide Day of Service, including youth clinics and A Walk to End Alzheimer's.  The teams contributed over 2,800 hours of service this academic year.  The student athletes will receive their awards this spring on campus.  This is the 6th competition, a partnership with volunteer management and tracking platform Helper Helper. 

Women's Center looking to hire more staff members

The Women's Center is currently looking to hire a Family Violence Victim Advocate,a Bilingual Child Counselor and a Part-time Residential Counselor. 

The primary role of Family Violence Victim Advocate is to provide services to family violence crime victims who are involved in criminal court cases. These services include providing information and civil advocacy from arraignment and throughout the court process. The advocate works in the court as part of the Family Violence Intervention Unit and provides immediate and ongoing services within the legal system and throughout the community.  

The post provides counseling and advocacy support services to residential and non-residential clients.  The Residential Counselor is needed to help those who come to the Women's Center for shelter services through domestic violence, sexual assault and resource programs. 

Required qualifications are  posted on the "Career Opportunities" page of the Women's Center website.

Danbury looks for applicant to operate vendor truck at Rogers Park

Danbury officials are looking for a food truck to operate at Rogers Park.  The City is accepting proposals from experienced parties interested in operating a Vending Truck for the 2020 season.   A copy of the complete Scope of Work is available from the Purchasing Department at City Hall.  Bids will be accepted until 2pm on February 5th. 

US House passes bill to eliminate Division created to enforce a refusal of care rule

A division of the Office for Civil Rights at the US Department of Health and Human Services would be eliminated under a bill passed in the House.  5th District Congresswoman Jahana Hayes says the Conscience and Religious Freedom Division was formed in 2018. 

Hayes says the bill saves taxpayer money by eliminating the Division, which was created to enforce a refusal of care rule that she says would jeopardize access to medical services, including abortion and gender affirmation surgery among others. 

Hayes has been vocal about her personal faith, but says nobody should be forced to live their life according to the religious values of another. 

Despite receiving significant funding, Hayes says the Division handles a minuscule amount of cases annually.  In Fiscal Year 2018, there were 784 complaints, of which only 6% were closed, and 5% didn’t require any formal investigation at all. During the same period, there was a nearly 50% increase in civil rights cases and a nearly 20% increase in health information privacy cases. 

The Department of Health and Human Services requested a more than $1 million funding increase for the Division – covering six new staffers – while making deep cuts to other Divisions in the Office of Civil Rights with significantly heavier caseloads.  The bill does not end religious exemptions, instead it eliminates what Hayes called a wasteful government division.

New Milford provides radon test kits for homeowners

The New Milford Health Department is offering free radon test kits for home use.  In partnership with the state Department of Public Health, the goal is for residents with elevated levels detected to take corrective action.  Radon gas, which is odorless and invisible, is the leading cause of lung cancer in non-smokers.  It occurs naturally and is found in rock, soil and water. It’s a low risk when outside, but can become a health hazard if it enters buildings. New Milford residents can make an appointment to get a free radon test kit by calling the town’s health department at 860-355-6035.  A limited number of kits are available through the end of the month. A sanitarian from the department will help residents start the test and then collect it at the end.

Native Meadows property accepted by New Milford residents in Town Meeting

New Milford residents have approved accepting 25 acres of land into the town's open space portfolio.  Native Meadows is located next to Veterans Bridge.  The Northwest Conservation District purchased the property several years ago.  The GE settlement money could not go to a town, so the conservation district bought the land with the intention of turning it over to New Milford.  Some members of the Town Council were reluctant to take ownership over concerns about maintenance costs.

Brookfield officials discuss special education costs

A joint meeting of the Brookfield Boards of Education, Selectmen and Fiance was held this week to talk about soaring costs for special education.  The Superintendent says three new students with special needs have joined the district this past week.  The Newstimes reports that their education plans are still being discussed, but it could bring the number to 8 of students who could be placed out of district.  The budget overage is estimated at between $730,000 and $995,000.  Outplacements are considered a last resort, with districts trying to provide appropriate services to students in their home community.  The selectmen approved $208,000 from town savings in the budget for the known increase. The Board of Finance will consider the request next month.

Resolution in opposition to tolls approved by Newtown Legislative Council

The Newtown Legislative Council has unanimously passed a resolution opposing tolls.  One of the proposed gantries would be on the Rochambeau bridge on I-84 in Newtown.  

The resolution approved Wednesday night says they are concerned about the unintended consequences of shifting a significant amount of traffic on Newtown's roads as drivers attempt to avoid the cost burden.  The Legislative Council is specifically concerned about the dramatic increase in the number of tractor-trailer trucks and heavy duty trucks on local roads, the damage to the roads, the cost to the town for repairs and the financial burden on Newtown residents. 

The resolution points to the existing traffic congestion in Sandy Hook Center, around Exit 11, by Newtown High School and Church Hill Road.  They also point to safety concerns of increased local traffic potentially delaying emergency personnel.  The Council is concerned that it would discourage retailers and shopping, putting the local businesses at a competitive disadvantage. 

The town's delegation has expressed bipartisan opposition to tolls. The resolution is being sent to the Governor and the state legislature.

Local legislators to introduce bill protecting older job applicants from age discrimination

A bipartisan group of legislators is supporting a bill that prohibits employers from asking the age, date of birth, or graduation dates of job applicants, unless a particular age is a bona fide occupational qualification. 

With 436,000 workers in their mid-50’s, Connecticut has the 6th-oldest workforce in the nation, with a median age of 41, as of 2017.  Some 20% of Connecticut employees were over the age 54 in 2008; today that figure is 26.5%, with the health care, manufacturing, educational services and retail trade industries employing the most workers over age 54.

A 2018 AARP survey found about 60% of older workers have seen or experienced age discrimination in the workplace, and 76% of them see age discrimination as a hurdle to finding a new job. Meanwhile, nearly a third of U.S. households headed by someone age 55 or older have no retirement savings or pension, meaning they’ll have to continue working or rely on Social Security in order to survive financially.

“Today, no one walks into a business and asks for a job application. Everything is done online,” said Danbury State Senator Julie Kushner, who is Senate chair of the Labor and Public Employees Committee. “Today we’re announcing our intention to make a real difference for older workers in Connecticut. They should be evaluated on the merits of their skills and experience. When an employer does that, Connecticut businesses are going to find a wealth of talent in the pool of older applicants. To rule someone out simply because of their age is not only wrong, it’s also bad for businesses.”

“Age discrimination is real, and this legislation accomplishes many good things. I’ve been advocating for this for years,” said Newtown State Rep. Mitch Bolinsky. “First, it gets older workers in the door, considered, and interviewed on the strength of their work, not the date on their resume. Second, it’s important to know that it doesn’t mandate employers to do anything they don’t already do when considering their best-fit, new employees. In fact, it may help them meet some of the hardest-working, dedicated employees out there. Third, there’s a lot of current conversation about enriching Connecticut’s talent pool. Fact is, there is a wealth of talent in our state’s older workers, and this simple bill will showcase that.”

The bill, which will be formally introduced once session begins in February, will closely the follow the language of a similar bill introduced last year, House Bill 6113. That bill noted that, “except in the case of a bona fide occupational qualification or need,” employers are not allowed to “request or require a prospective employee’s age, date of birth or date of graduation from an educational institution on an initial employment application.”

Last year’s bill passed the Labor Committee in March but was never raised in the House for a vote.

Newtown Police investigate report of stolen car, make arrest in 2018 car theft case

The Newtown Police Department is investigating the report of a car stolen from the driveway of an Indian Hill Road home.  The 2017 silver Honda CR-V is believed to have been taken at about 2:30 yesterday morning.  The vehicle was unlocked with the keys inside.  

Newtown Police have arrested a man on an outstanding arrest warrant for allegedly stealing a car in Newtown.  Police charged 22-year old Kevin Santos this week with Larceny.  Police say his DNA was found in a recovered stolen car from Newtown. The car was stolen from a residence on Walnut Tree Hill Road in October of 2018.

In the past couple weeks, Police investigated several daytime vehicle break ins.  The suspects have been identified and arrested in New Jersey.  Newtown Police say they are apart of an organized gang that targets the entire east coast, moving state to state in a rental car.  In every stolen vehicle from Newtown and the surrounding towns, the cars all had the keys inside.

Police are reminding residents to lock cars, take valuables out, not to leave the keys inside. 

Improvements to White Street proposed in Danbury

A public information meeting is being held in Danbury on January 29th about proposed improvements on White Street.  The project is from the intersection with Eighth Avenue to the intersection with Meadow Street and Locust Avenue and Wildman Street.  The design presentation will be followed by a question and answer session.  The construction will be funded under the Local Transportation Capital Improvement Program.  Plans are available for review at the City of Danbury Engineering Department.  The information meeting is at 6pm at Danbury City Hall City Council Chambers.  Written questions or comments can be emailed to Danbury Project Engineer Thomas Altermatt t.altermatt@danbury ct.gov.

Short-term rental regulations approved in New Fairfield

Short term rental regulations have been adopted in New Fairfield.  The Zoning Commission, at their meeting last week, approved an amendment allowing rentals of six or fewer days as long as property owners obtain zoning permits for their rental properties. 

According to meeting minutes, the update requires a payment of $500 every 24 months for the permit.  A certificate of insurance for the proposed use and Zoning Commission-approved site plan are also needed.  The renter must live on either the same property as the rental or an abutting one.  Occupancy is limited to two people per bedroom.  

The changes passed on a 2-1 vote. 

Proponents say the supplemental income helps pay for property taxes or improvements to their property.  Opponents argue there have been large groups, strained septic systems, a lot of street parking and noise. 

The amended zoning regulation go into effect March 1st.

FBI agents visit Congressional candidate's house, business after impeachment document release

FBI agents have visited the home and business office of a GOP 5th Congressional District candidate, according to ABC news.  Robert Hyde's name emerged this week in documents released by the U-S House as part of the impeachment inquiry.  He claimed to have knowledge of surveillance of Kent-native Marie Yovanovitch when she was U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine.  In text message between Hyde and Lev Parnas, a close associate of Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, Hyde gives Parnas updates on the location of Yovanovitch.  Both Hyde and Parnas have said they were alcohol-fueled joking messages.

Bethel Chamber of Commerce to host Legislative Breakfast

The Bethel Chamber of Commerce is hosting a Legislative Breakfast on January 27th.  People in attendance will learn more about the legislative focus of the town's State Senators and Representatives. Senators Will Haskell and Julie Kushner, along with Representatives Raghib Allie-Brennan and Stephen Harding have been invited.  Opening remarks will be delivered by First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker.  There will be a question and answer session for residents to share questions and concerns.  The event will take place at the Bethel South Street Fire Station,from 7:30am to 9am. It's $15 for Bethel Chamber Members and their guests, $25 for non-Chamber Members. Registration is requested by January 20th. Walk-ins are welcome, but pre-registration and payment are preferred.

Freshman lawmaker to seek reelection

Bethel state Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan has announced that he is running for re-election.  The freshman lawmaker says Connecticut is at a pivotal moment.  He touted his work in the first term so far, including efforts to repeal the business entity tax.  Allie-Brennan says he's hosted over a dozen community conversations on issues ranging from affordable housing to the opioid epidemic, and wants to continue to address those issues.

Ridgefield Police Department Citizen Police Academy accepting applications

The Ridgefield Police Department Citizen Police Academy is accepting applications.  The program is aimed at connecting the community and the police.  Participants will gain insight into how the department works and services provided to the community.  Topics include Crime Scene Investigation, K9 Unit, Firearms, TASER, Speed Enforcement, D.U.I. Enforcement, Search and Seizure, and Department History.  Applications are due by February 9th.  The Academy will begin February 11th, and meet for 8 weeks every Tuesday from 6pm to 9pm at police headquarters on East Ridge Road.  Participants must be 18 and live or work in Ridgefield.  Applications can be found on the town's website, and must be dropped off or mailed to the police department.

League of Women Voters kick off 100th anniversary of 19th Amendment ratification

Members from the League of Women Voters of Ridgefield have marked the 135th birthday of suffragette Alice Paul.  During a gathering Tuesday morning at the Keeler Tavern Museum, the group also kicked off the town’s yearlong commemoration of the 100th anniversary of 19th Amendment’s ratification. A longtime Ridgefield resident, Paul helped secure passage of the 19th Amendment that granted women the right to vote. In 1923, Paul authored the Equal Rights Amendment, which has yet to be adopted.  The gender equality measure is continuing to advance in the Virginia Legislature.  It has to be ratified by a certain number of states to become the next amendment to the U.S. Constitution.   Even if it's ratified in Virginia, court battles are expected nationwide over a long-passed 1982 deadline set by Congress.

Bethel Superintendent recognized by UConn School of Education

UConn's Neag School of Education has named Bethel Superintendent of Schools Christine Carver as the 2020 Outstanding School Superintendent of the Year for the state.  The alumni board says the award is given annually to a graduate who has made a significant impact on education, has a national reputation for her/his work, has been an inspiration to other professionals, and has shown continued involvement with the School of Education.  Carver has been superintendent in Bethel for five years and will be formally recognized at Neag’s 22nd annual Alumni Awards Celebration March 14th.

Vote on proposed bond package could be held in Danbury during Primary Day

A vote on a bond package in Danbury could happen April 28th, the same day registered voters go to the polls for the primary.  During a meeting this week, officials discussed the education portion of the bond. 

The City needs to meet a June 30th deadline in order to obtain a state grant, which would cover 60 percent of eligible costs.  Mayor Mark Boughton says if they miss that deadline, there could be kids that don't have a spot in the fall. 

The classrooms would go on the first floor of the Osborne Street building, with administrative offices moving to a renovated second floor. Maintenance crews would move into the Department of Public Works building.  But the first set of new classrooms likely would not open until 2021. 

According to demographers, Danbury's student enrollment could increase by as much as 7.1 percent over the next 10 years.  The other school bond money would go toward adding classroom space at the middle school level.  Architectural and engineering work would also be paid for with the funding.


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