Local News

Mayor's Chief of Staff seeks GOP mayoral nomination

Danbury Mayor Joe Cavo has decided not to seek election to a term of his own in November to lead the City.  He's opted to seek election to an At-Large Seat on the City Council.  Prior to stepping up to the role of Mayor in December, Cavo was City Council President.  He took over for Mark Boughton, who joined the Lamont administration as Commissioner of the Department of Revenue Services.

Mayoral Chief of Staff Dean Esposito has announced his intention to seek the GOP nomination to hold the top spot in Danbury.  The Hat City native had been living in Brookfield the last several years, but he and his wife have downsized in Danbury since their children have left house.  

Esposito previously served as a City Councilman and Town Clerk.  He ran as a Democrat against Boughton for Mayor in 2005.  Prior to being Boughton's Chief of Staff, Esposito was Community Services Coordinator.

Charles Grodin, 'Midnight Run,' 'Heartbreak Kid,' star, dies

Charles Grodin, the droll, offbeat actor and writer who scored as a caddish newlywed in “The Heartbreak Kid” and later had roles ranging from Robert De Niro’s counterpart in the comic thriller “Midnight Run” to the bedeviled father in the “Beethoven” comedies, has died. He was 86.

Grodin died Tuesday in Wilton, Connecticut, from bone marrow cancer, his son, Nicholas Grodin, said.

Known for his dead-pan style and everyday looks, Grodin also appeared in “Dave,” “The Woman in Red,” “Rosemary’s Baby” and “Heaven Can Wait.” On Broadway, he starred with Ellen Burstyn in the long-running 1970s comedy “Same Time, Next Year,” and he found many other outlets for his talents.

With bone-dry understatement, Grodin could steal entire scenes with just a look. His commitment, whether acting across De Niro or Miss Piggy, was unsurpassed. In his many late-night appearances, he once brought a lawyer with him to threaten David Letterman for defamation. (The lawyer instead took a shine to Letterman.) Hosting “Saturday Night Live,” he pretended to not understand live television, ruining all the sketches. Steve Martin, who co-starred with Grodin in 1984′s “The Lonely Guy,” remembered him as “one of the funniest people I ever met.”

In the 1990s, Grodin made his mark as a liberal commentator on radio and TV. He also wrote plays and television scripts, winning an Emmy for his work on a 1997 Paul Simon special, and wrote several books humorously ruminating on his ups and downs in show business.

Actors, he wrote, should “think not so much about getting ahead as becoming as good as you can be, so you’re ready when you do get an opportunity. I did that, so I didn’t suffer from the frustration of all the rejections. They just gave me more time.” He spelled out that advice in his first book, “It Would Be So Nice If You Weren’t Here,” published in 1989.

Grodin became a star in the 1970s, but might have broken through years earlier: He auditioned for the title role in Mike Nichols’ 1967 classic “The Graduate,” but the part went instead to Dustin Hoffman.

Grodin did have a small role in “Rosemary’s Baby” and was part of the large cast of Nichols’ adaptation of “Catch-22″ before he gained wide notice in the 1972 Elaine May comedy “The Heartbreak Kid.”

He starred as a Jewish newlywed who abandons his comically neurotic bride to pursue a beautiful, wealthy blonde played by Cybill Shepherd. The movie was a hit and Grodin received high praise. He commented: “After seeing the movie, a lot of people would approach me with the idea of punching me in the nose.”

“I thought the character in ‘The Heartbreak Kid’ was a despicable guy, but I play it with full sincerity,” Grodin told the A.V. Club in 2009. “My job isn’t to judge it. If it wasn’t for Elaine May, I probably would never have had that movie career.”

In the next few years, Grodin played in a lavish 1976 film remake of “King Kong” as the greedy showman who brings the big ape to New York. He was Warren Beatty’s devious lawyer in “Heaven Can Wait,” and Gene Wilder’s friend in “The Woman in Red” (Less successfully, he appeared in May’s 1987 adventure comedy “Ishtar,” a notorious flop). His turn in 1981’s “The Great Muppet Caper” was typically dedicated as a thief wooing Miss Piggy.

In 1988′s “Midnight Run,” Grodin was a bail-jumping accountant who took millions from a mobster and De Niro was the bounty hunter trying to bring him cross-country to Los Angeles. They’re being chased by police, another bounty hunter and the Mob, and because Grodin is afraid of flying, they are forced to go by car, bus, even boxcar.

Grodin and De Niro improvised in many scenes in the film, revered as among the greatest buddy comedies. Often Grodin was genuinely trying to amuse his more intimidating co-star. One line he threw at De Niro: “You ever had sex with an animal, Jack?”

“I moved a little more toward drama and he moved a little toward comedy,” Grodin said at the time. “And we met on a very good ground.”

“Beethoven” brought him success in the family-animal comedy genre in 1992. Asked why he took up such a role, he told The Associated Press he was happy to get the work.

“I’m not that much in demand,” Grodin replied. “It’s not like I have this stack of wonderful offers. I’m just delighted they wanted me.”

Amid his film gigs, Grodin became a familiar face on late-night TV, perfecting a character who would confront Johnny Carson or others with a fake aggressiveness that made audiences cringe and laugh at the same time.

“It’s all a joke,” he told The Los Angeles Times in 1995. “It’s just a thing. It was a choice to do that.”

His biggest stage success, by far, was “Same Time, Next Year,” which opened on Broadway in 1975 and ran nearly 3½ years. He and Burstyn were two people who — though each happily married — meet in the same hotel once a year for an extramarital fling. Beyond the humor, the play won praise for deftly tracing the changes in their lives, and in society, from the 1950s to the ’70s. Critic Clive Barnes called Grodin’s character “a monument to male insecurity, gorgeously inept.”

After 1994′s “My Summer Story,” Grodin largely abandoned acting. From 1995 to 1998, he hosted a talk show on CNBC cable network. He moved to MSNBC and then to CBS’ “60 Minutes II.”

In his 2002 book, “I Like It Better When You’re Funny,” he said too many TV programmers’ believe that viewers are best served “if we hear only from lifelong journalists.” He argued that “people outside of Washington and in professions other than journalism” also deserved a soapbox.

He returned to the big screen in 2006 as Zach Braff’s know-it-all father-in-law in “The Ex.” More recent credits include the films “An Imperfect Murder” and “The Comedian” and the TV series “Louie.”

Grodin was born Charles Grodinsky in Pittsburgh in 1935, son of a wholesale dry goods seller who died when Charles was 18. He played basketball and later described himself as “a rough kid, always getting kicked out of class.”

He studied at the University of Miami and the Pittsburgh Playhouse, worked in summer theater and then struggled in New York, working nights as a cab driver, postal clerk and watchman while studying acting during the day.

In 1962 Grodin made his Broadway debut and received good notices in “Tchin Tchin,” a three-character play starring Anthony Quinn. He followed with “Absence of a Cello” in 1964.

He co-wrote and directed a short-lived 1966 off-Broadway show called “Hooray! It’s a Glorious Day ... and all that.” That same year, he made his movie debut in a low-budget flop called “Sex and the College Girl.”

In 1969, Grodin demonstrated his early interest in politics by helping write and direct “Songs of America,” a TV special starring Simon and Garfunkel that incorporated civil rights and antiwar messages. But the original sponsor pulled out and Simon later called the little-noticed effort “a tragedy.”

Simon returned with a special in 1977 that spoofed show business and featured Grodin as the show’s bumbling producer. Grodin and his co-writers won Emmys.

Grodin and his first wife, Julia Ferguson, had a daughter, comedian Marion Grodin. The marriage ended in divorce. He and his second wife, Elissa Durwood, had a son, Nicholas.

Cupola on top of Bethel Town Hall in need of repair

The cupola on top of Bethel Town Hall is in need of repair.  The town has hired a roofing contractor to fix it, along with a few other roof repairs that are needed on the municipal center.  Materials were delivered this morning. 

In order to access the roof and cupola, the contractor will be using a lift truck, parked in front of the building.  The lift will be moved in place once they're ready to access the roof.  Construction is expected to take a few weeks, but First Selectman Matt Knickerbocker says it should have little impact on entry and exit to and from the building. There will be no change to current entrance procedures as the main entrance is already closed off.

The General Purpose Room Entrance will remain open. 

The ballot drop box and correspondence drop box are also staying where they are, but if the contractor needs to move them or the public cannot access them due to the equipment notice will be given.

Former Danbury Mayor endorses Democratic Gov. for re-election

Former Danbury Mayor Mark Boughton is endorsing his new boss for re-election. The one-time Republican gubernatorial hopeful is endorsing Democrat Ned Lamont for reelection. Boughton, who was appointed by Lamont to be Commissioner of Revenue Services in December, made the announcement on This Week in Connecticut.  Boughton says he's still a Republican but thinks Lamont has done a great job and earned his re-election.

Easton Police investigating thefts from unlocked cars

The Easton Police Department received numerous reports of vehicles being entered Monday morning.  Personal property was reported removed from the unlocked cars.  A Fair Oak Drive resident called police around 1am to report a male in their driveway entering their vehicles. The male ran off to a waiting vehicle.  Shortly before 5:30am, a Birch Drive resident called to report two males walking through her property towards Asmara Way. Police responded to both incidents but were unable to locate the persons.  Easton Police urged everyone to remove valuables and lock unoccupied cars.

Southbury Volunteer Firemen's Association looking to hire Administrative Assistant

Southbury Volunteer Firemen’s Association is looking to hire an Administrative Assistant.  The job is 30 hours per week, with infrequent flex up to 35 hours, plus Monday evenings 6:30pm to 8:30pm.  Applicants must have experience with Word, and Excel. Typical duties include phone and message management, handling mail, generating reports, publishing incident reporting of fire statistics, assisting the Fire Chief with report details, and maintaining confidential health and personnel records.  Candidates must pass a drug screen, and background check.  The office is located at 461 Main Street South in Southbury. Call 203-262-0615 or email southburyfirejobs@gmail.com to apply. 

Brookfield budget referendum today

Brookfield residents are voting on a proposed budget today. The Selectmen have proposed a budget for the coming fiscal year that would increase the tax rate by 1.63 percent. 

The spending plan includes $28.1 million for the town and $46.9 million for the schools.  Health insurance costs for teachers were significantly lower than originally anticipated.  Spending on the overall budget is up about 5 percent from the current year.  Part of the increase is debt service due to the new school bond. 

District 2 voters will cast ballots at the high school, but District 1 residents will be voting this year at St Marguerite Bourgeoys Church Parish Hall due to construction of a new school on the Huckleberry Hill site.  The school will not be available as a polling location until the new building, called Candlewood Lake Elementary School, is completed. 

District 1 voters will cast ballots at 138 Candlewood Lake Road. 

Special Town Meeting in Bethel about water system improvement plan

A Special Town Meeting is being held in Bethel tonight about the town's water system improvement plan.  The meeting will be held in-person.  Eligible residents will be asked if $796,655 dollars should be used for various water main replacements.  This phase of the project would be on School, Rector and Pleasant streets, and Fleetwood Park. 

While town funding is being requested, there would be no cost to taxpayers since the  public utilities budget is separate.  The town meeting is needed because Bethel is applying for grants to cover part of the cost. 

If approved, work could start next month and is anticipated to be completed in three to four months.  During the work, water would be temporarily shut off in those neighborhoods, but a robocall would alert residents in advance. 

Tonight's meeting is at 6:30pm in the Municipal Center general purpose room.

New Milford budget referendum today

New Milford residents are voting on a budget today.  The referendum is seeking approval of a $39.3 million municipal budget and $65.8 million for the schools.  The overall spending plan is about $1.5 million more than the current year.  Spending is down on the town side, but the Board of Education budget is proposed to be higher.  The proposed New Milford mill rate would be 27.97.  The town has proposed funding the full allocation requested by the Candlewood Lake Authority, which is a significant increase over the current year.  All 7 polling locations are open until 8pm.

Lawmakers propose changes to Lamont's plans for COVID funds

onnecticut legislators recommended changes on Monday to Gov. Ned Lamont’s spending proposal for more than $2.8 billion in federal COVID-19 relief funding, including using more of the money to help replenish the state’s hard-hit unemployment trust fund and boost funding for the tourism industry and struggling nursing homes.

Members of the Democratic-controlled Appropriations Committee voted unanimously for the retooled plan, despite some Republicans wanting more of the historic financial assistance from Washington spent on paying down the $725 million the state had to borrow from the federal government during the pandemic to ensure unemployment claims were covered.

Such loans are typically repaid by an increased tax on employers. While Lamont’s plan dedicated $50 million from the state’s share of the $1.9 trillion federal COVID relief legislation, known as the American Rescue Plan, the committee increased that amount on Monday to $310 million.

“Anything we can do to take the edge off of that additional tax is going to be helpful,” said New Milford Sen. Craig Miner, the top GOP senator on the committee. “But again, if the budget was in my hands, I think I’d be trying to move toward a doubling of that,” arguing it would ultimately lead to more residents keeping their jobs.

He suggested focusing less of the federal COVID money on the tourism industry. The committee, unlike Lamont, set aside $40 million for a statewide marketing campaign to pitch Connecticut as a tourist destination to additional markets, including Canada. Both Lamont and the committee agreed to dedicate $45 million to help the hospitality industry, which was hit hard by the pandemic. The committee also devoted $20 million to help support local events, such as fairs and concerts, while Lamont had set aside nearly $6.4 million.

Proponents noted that tourism, which includes everything from hotels to attractions, is important for helping to rejuvenate the state’s economy.

“We need to make Connecticut good for Connecticut people and for people to come from outside of the state,” said Rep. Toni Walker, D-New Haven, the committee’s co-chairman.

The committee’s plan for the federal money, which accounts for about $165 million in additional aid the state recently learned it’s receiving, was sent Monday to the top two Democratic leaders of the House and Senate. While the full General Assembly must ultimately vote on the final allocation of the funds, it’s unclear if it will be wrapped into a final two-year state budget agreement or passed as a separate piece of legislation.

The committee’s plan would spend more than $1.6 billion of the money on balancing the new two-year budget, replacing state revenue lost during the height of the pandemic. Lamont’s plan proposed spending more than $1.7 billion.

Southbury Animal Control warn against pets left in cars even for short time

With temperatures soaring this week, Southbury Animal Control is offering a reminder to be cautious of animals and vehicles.  Their aim is to prevent a quick stop at the store from becoming an emergency visit to the vet. 

Even on mild days, with temperatures in low 70 degrees, the interior of a parked car can quickly reach 100 degrees.  On warmer 85-plus-degree days, Southbury Animal Control says cars can reach 115 degrees within 10 to 20 minutes, even if a window is left open or the car is parked in the shade. 

To report a pet left in a vehicle, contact 203-262-0613 or the non-emergency phone number of the Southbury Police Department at 203-264-5912.  

Dogs, like humans, can suffer from heatstroke and heat exhaustion.  But dogs are unable to sweat the way that humans do and panting is a dog’s primary function of cooling themselves off.  

Symptoms include excessive panting, drooling, reddened gums, vomiting, diarrhea, mental dullness or loss of consciousness, uncoordinated movement, and full collapse. It is essential that a dog displaying these symptoms get to a vet immediately, as these are life threatening conditions.  

Danbury awarded grant for COVID-19 outreach to vulnerable communities

The Danbury Department of Health and Human Services has been awarded a grant from the state to do COVID-19 outreach.  Most of the $977,000 will be used to promote vaccinations.  8 people will be working to get in touch with those living in underserved communities and to vulnerable populations about updates, new clinics and other information.  Danbury is teaming up with community partners for a collaboration on vaccine rollout to people without internet access and those who English is their second language.  About 30 percent of the City's population is fully vaccinated and another 46 percent have received at least one dose as of May 10, the latest data reported by the state Department of Public Health.

Southbury Police rescue snake from a home, relocate it

Southbury Police rescued a snake from a home in town over the weekend and released it back into its natural habitat.  The Northern Black Racer is one of two large, black snakes found in Connecticut. 

The fairly large snake can measure in length from 33 to 65 inches. 

The northern black racer prefers open, lightly wooded habitats. These include meadows, fields, powerline rights-of-way, roadsides, and transitional zones between forests and fields. This snake thrives in areas that are mowed or occasionally cleared, and will avoid heavily forested habitats.  Racers are beneficial to humans by controlling rodents, especially when they occur in or near agricultural fields. It has a solid black, cylindrical body with a bluish belly and white chin.

The scales are smooth, giving the snake a “matte” appearance. The head, which is not much wider than the body, is small for this larger-sized snake.  It is considered an important species in the state as its population is declining due to loss of habitat through succession, fragmentation, and development.

Sherman Resident State Trooper to step up traffic enforcement

As a result of several complaints of dangerous and erratic driving in Sherman on Route 37 near Durgy Lane and Leach Hollow Road, the Resident Troopers Office will be conducting increased traffic enforcement in these areas. State Police say they're working with First Selectman Don Lowe to create safe roadways throughout Sherman.

Safe e-commerce zone established in New Fairfield

Safe Meet Up signs have been put up in the parking lot of the New Fairfield Police station.  The New Fairfield Economic Development Commission worked with various town departments to arrange for this e-commerce zone.  Next time a resident buys or sells something on sites like Craiglist or Facebook Marketplace they can meet at the police station for maximum safety in such a transaction.

Mask mandate expected to change in Conn. Wednesday

Ridgefield Parks and Recreation still requires wearing masks. While the CDC has altered its guidance on vaccinated people wearing masks, the State, for now, still has an executive order requiring all individuals to wear face coverings indoors.  That is expected to change on Wednesday when other COVID-related mandates are dropped in Connecticut.  The CDC does still recommend indoor mask wearing in certain circumstances.  The state Department of Public Health is working on guidance for indoor events.

Shepaug Valley School PTO celebrating Class of 2021

Congratulatory lawn sign are being sold as a fundraiser by the Shepaug Valley School PTO to celebrate the Class of 2021 as they graduate from Region 12.  Lawn signs will be available for pick-up at Shepaug Valley School in Washington on the 29th, between 10am and 1pm. Each lawn sign is $5 and includes the metal frame. Online orders will be accepted through this Sunday at 5PM.

Court upholds sanction of veterinarian over rabies shots

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut appeals court on Friday upheld state sanctions against a veterinarian for giving half doses of rabies vaccines to smaller dogs, a practice he says is safer but state officials say is dangerous.

A three-judge panel of the Appellate Court, the state’s second-highest court, unanimously dismissed an appeal of the sanctions by John Robb, a veterinarian who now practices in Newtown. A message seeking comment was left for Robb on Friday.

In 2017, the Connecticut Board of Veterinary Medicine placed Robb’s license on probation for 25 years, banned him from administering rabies vaccines to animals during the entire probationary period and ordered Robb’s practice to be supervised and undergo random audits.

The board found Robb failed to follow state mandates by giving dogs under 50 pounds a half dose of the rabies vaccine instead of the full dose that is supposed to be administered per the manufacturer’s directions. The board also said Robb failed to get consent from dog owners to give the half doses instead of the full ones.

The board said giving half doses of the vaccine to dogs endangered their lives and the lives of people around them by giving them less protection against rabies, which is potentially fatal to humans.

Officials said the violations occurred from July 2010 through February 2012 when Robb was working at the Banfield Pet Hospital in Stamford.

In court documents, Robb said he was following his Hippocratic oath to not harm animals in his care. He said full doses of the vaccine can cause serious side effects and potentially death for smaller dogs. He said the half doses gave the smaller dogs immunity from rabies and none of the dogs in his care were harmed because of that.

Robb appealed the sanctions to a trial court, which upheld the board. Robb then appealed to the Appellate Court. It wasn’t immediately clear if he planned to appeal again to the state Supreme Court.

Candlewood Lake Authority requests significant funding increase

The five towns surrounding Candlewood Lake are being asked to pay more for increased patrols on the water.  The Candlewood Lake Authority is seeking a more than 60-percent increase in their budget.  The five towns paid about $86,000 this year, but the CLA is asking for $139,000 this year.  They say this is in anticipation of a busy summer based on new vessel registrations, boating certificates, boating education classes and inquiries about dock space.  The Danbury City Council signed off on flat funding in Mayor Joe Cavo's budget.  Brookfield's budget vote is tomorrow, and town officials are seeking resident's input on a slightly lower request.  New Milford officials have proposed the full increase, with a budget referendum set for tomorrow.  Sherman has approved the full allocation while New Fairfield’s Board of Finance approved the full increase, with the Annual Town Meeting set for later this month.

WCSU hosts commencement ceremonies

Commencement ceremonies were held this weekend for both the West Conn class od 2020 and 2021.  Some 870 students participated in 4 ceremonies held Saturday and Sunday on the west side campus.  Each student was allowed two guests.  Social distancing and mask mandates were in place for the ceremonies outside the athletic complex on the Westside campus. The President’s Medal was presented on Sunday to Sam and Alice Hyman. Alice, a community volunteer and former Danbury Hospital employee, died in November 2019. Her husband and daughter accepted the award on her behalf. Sam was honored for his long service to civil rights in the state.  West Conn officials say the couple was active in raising money to eventually name the School of Visual and Performing Arts after Marian Anderson.

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