Local News

Ridgefield Police tout successful 'Push-Ups for the Pantry' fund drive

Nearly $35,000 has been donated to help Ridgefield residents experiencing food insecurity.  The Ridgefield Police Benevolence Association and the Ridgefield Department of Social Services are thanking the community for their support during the "Push-Ups for the Pantry" fund drive. 

Officers say during the month of April, $31,000 was donated online, and $3,900 in restaurant gift cards were dropped off.  That translated into 1,900 push ups by police officers. Throughout this month, the Ridgefield Rotary Club has been matching donations. 

The yellow drop box outside the police station will be by the driveway until Monday.  After that time, donors as asked to coordinate with the Department of Social Services directly.


Danbury Police modify annual Police Memorial Ceremony amid pandemic restrictions

This year, the Danbury Police Department was unable to hold a public gathering for their annual Police Memorial Ceremony due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Members honored Officers who died in the line of duty with a short vehicle procession, memorial wreath placing and brief remarks from the Police Chief and the Mayor.  The video can be viewed on the Police Department's YouTube page. https://youtu.be/oR0f45spUWo


Local lawmaker opposes restriction on inland park swimming

New Milford state Senator Craig Miner is voicing opposition to some of the State Parks plans this summer. He says shoreline beaches, where people are allowed to swim, is colder than the water inland in lakes and ponds. Miner is upset because Connecticut residents pay a fee on vehicle registrations to enter parks to utilize all of their benefits.  He also called on constituents to contact him if there is no staffing at park gates to charge out-of-state visitors.


Curbside pick up to begin at Bethel Public Library

Bethel Public Library will begin curbside pickup of Library materials, by appointment only, on Monday.  Items can be requested online or over the phone.  Librarians will then locate the material, if not already checked out, and call to schedule a pickup day and time. 

Items will be checked out for three weeks, placed in a paper bag with last name on it and will be waiting on a table outside the front entrance. If a patron misses the appointment time, they are asked to call the library and not arrive at a different time, as appointments will be scheduled throughout the day. 

When picking up materials, Bethel Library officials ask patrons to wear a mask and if someone else is at the table, wait until they retrieve their bag before moving to the table. 

Library materials are to be returned in the exterior bookdrop.  Materials are quarantined for a minimum of three days before being handled by staff and recirculated to the public. Items will be checked in as of the date they are returned to the bookdrop.


Bethel Transfer Station resumes normal fee schedule, hours

The Bethel Transfer Station has resumed the normal fee schedule and hours of operation.  Residents are required to wear a mask or other cloth covering while within the confines of the Bethel Transfer Station. A face covering must be validated to the Scale House attendant prior to entrance.  Social distancing recommendations from others must also be followed.  While there will be an attendant at the scale, household waste “scale” customers will be required to deposit items on the scale for weighing, remove items and place them into trailer. The Transfer Station Permits currently held with an expiration date of July 1st will be valid and not renewed until January 1st.


Confidential reporting forms about COVID regulation compliance online

The Danbury Department of Health & Human Services has created a confidential reporting form for residents to fill out online if they have any concerns about how businesses are operating during the COVID-19 crisis.  City officials say the health department can follow up appropriately and ensure proper protocols are followed. 

https://www.cognitoforms.com/DanburyHealthDepartment/COVID19ReportOfBusinessConcerns

The State also created a Business Complaint Form.  The state form is more comprehensive and is intended for complaints that pertain to requirements of the Sector Rules only.

https://appengine.egov.com/apps/ct/COVID-19/Reopen-CT-Business-Complaint-Form

On the City report form, in addition to basic information about the business, complainants are asked whether the business should not be open, is allowing food self-service, is allowing dine-in service or a blank to explain another reason. 


Memorial service planned for slain Newtown High School graduate

A memorial service will be held Sunday for the 23-year-old Newtown High School graduate who was killed Sunday, allegedly by a former classmate.  The service for Nicholas Eisele will be held in the parking lot of St. Rose of Lima Church in Newtown at 2pm.  Wake arrangements are expected to include that viewing would be limited to 10 people at a time in the funeral home due to social distancing regulations.


Application submitted to Conn. Siting Council for Kent cell tower

The Connecticut Siting Council has received an application from Homeland Towers and AT&T for a cell tower at one of two proposed locations in Kent.  One site is 93 Richards Road, the other is the area of 15-38 Bald Hill Road.  The tower would be 150- to 175-feet tall.  Kent officials plan to post application information on the town's website once it's available from the Siting Council.  Kent was granted “party status” in the proceedings.  The town will be able to respond to pre-hearing questions, submit to cross-examination and provide filings to the council, the applicant and any intervenor.


Police: Man wanted in 2 slayings surrendered peacefully

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A college student wanted in connection with two killings in Connecticut was taken into custody when he walked out of a wooded area in Maryland and surrendered peacefully to officers who had their guns drawn, ending six days on the run in several states and providing some relief to the victims’ families, police said Thursday.

Peter Manfredonia, 23, declined to fight extradition back to Connecticut during a brief court hearing Thursday conducted by video in Hagerstown, Maryland. Connecticut State Police said they planned to bring him back to Connecticut within the next two weeks.

“We talked to all the family members of the victims,” state police Lt. Michael Pendleton said at a news conference. “They were very appreciative of our efforts and bringing him to justice. I think they were very relieved that he was finally in custody.”

Authorities allege Manfredonia killed 62-year-old Ted DeMers and seriously wounded another man in a machete attack in Willington, Connecticut, on Friday morning. The wounded man, whose name hasn’t been released, suffered serious hand injuries, but was expected to survive, DeMers’ wife, Cyndi, said earlier this week.

Manfredonia fled to another home in Willington and robbed a man of his guns and pickup truck, then drove about 70 miles (110 kilometers) southwest to Derby, Connecticut, on Sunday, authorities said.

In Derby, police allege Manfredonia fatally shot a high school acquaintance, Nicholas Eisele, 23, then forced Eisele’s girlfriend into a car and fled the state. The woman was found unharmed with the car at a rest stop near near Columbia, New Jersey, near the Pennsylvania line.

Connecticut State Police said they had no information on motives for the attacks Thursday.

“All of us are greatly saddened by the loss of life of two Connecticut residents, the severe injury to an elderly person, the terror inflicted upon countless others,” said Col. Stavros Mellekas, commander of Connecticut State Police. “The savagery of these crimes ... propelled our detectives to commit themselves to finding this individual as quickly as possible.”

On Wednesday night, authorities from several law enforcement agencies converged at a truck stop just outside Hagerstown — after learning an Uber driver had dropped him off there — and Manfredonia walked out of some woods and approached them, Hagerstown police Lt. Rebecca Fetchu said.

Pendleton said the officers, including two Connecticut State Police detectives, drew their guns and ordered the University of Connecticut student to the ground.

“At that point, he went to the ground,” Pendleton said. “He did not resist, and absolutely no force was used to effect the arrest.”

Manfredonia also led police to a black bag containing a gun, believed to be the one used to kill Eisele, that was about 200 yards away, officials said.

Manfredonia was scared and exhausted when he surrendered, said Michael Dolan, a Connecticut lawyer representing Manfredonia’s family. Dolan said he talked with Manfredonia on Wednesday night.

“The family was relieved that this ended peacefully,” Dolan said. “They’re anxious for his return to Connecticut.”

Dolan said Manfredonia had a history of depression and anxiety, but had never shown signs of violence. Manfredonia, a Newtown native, was an honors engineering student at UConn, Dolan said.

Manfredonia is detained without bail at the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in Maryland. In a booking photo released by the sheriff’s office Thursday, he has no expression on his face, his hair is slightly disheveled and he is wearing a yellow shirt.

Cyndi DeMers told The Hartford Courant that she was “doing the happy dance that all are safe.”

“My Ted is at peace and will continue to watch over our family,” she said. “We will all move forward and continue on as he has instructed us to do.”

She did not return messages from The Associated Press on Thursday.

The death and crime spree began Friday morning when Manfredonia went to DeMers’ neighborhood looking for a young woman he knew, Cyndi Demers told the AP on Tuesday. Manfredonia was walking down the street wearing a motorcycle helmet, she said.

Manfredonia said his motorcycle had broken down and Ted Demers gave him a ride to the motorcycle, Cyndi Demers said. Then Manfredonia attacked Ted Demers and a neighbor who came to his aid, she said.

After leaving Eisele’s girlfriend in New Jersey, Manfredonia got rides from Uber several times while eluding police.

Investigators tracked Manfredonia to Pennsylvania, where police said he took an Uber to a Walmart in East Stroudsburg. Authorities searched the area but didn’t find him. On Tuesday night, a man fitting his description was spotted near Scranton, Pennsylvania, prompting another search there.

Police believe Manfredonia stole a car and abandoned it in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania, before taking an Uber to Hagerstown on Wednesday. Later that night, he took another Uber to the truck stop where he was captured, authorities said.

Uber officials said in a statement Thursday that they provided information to law enforcement about Manfredonia. They declined to give details.


Ridgefield receives Battlefield Protection grant

The Ridgefield Historical Society has received a $50,150 grant from the National Park Service: American Battlefield Protection Program.  The funding will be used for a two-year project to develop a deeper understanding of the 1777 Battle of Ridgefield and its place in the history of the American Revolution.  The Historical Society applied for the grant after the discovery of four sets of skeletal remains under a home near the battle site.

Historical Society President Sara Champion says they are thrilled that the National Park Service has recognized their efforts to preserve the history of the Battle of Ridgefield and are anxious to know as much as possible about the remains.

The details of the battle itself have been documented, but additional research could yield new information.

Among the questions that historians hope to answer are: Were the skeletons those of Patriots or Loyalists or British troops? How did the noncombatant residents of Ridgefield interact with the soldiers? What specifically did the British and Loyalist soldiers learn from the Ridgefield encounters? Who buried casualties from the Battle? Where are the other soldiers that died in the Battle buried?

Emeritus State Archaeologist Nicholas Bellantoni, who was in charge of the recovery of the skeletons, believes there is a great deal yet to be learned about the Battle, both from continuing studies of the skeletons and associated materials, as well as from the work supported by the Battlefield grant.

Much of the battleground, including sites of skirmishes as well as the location south of the village occupied by the British overnight following the battle, has been largely privately owned and developed to varying degrees over the centuries. There are also considerable municipal holdings in the center of town that are part of the site.

A Battlefield Advisory Group is being formed to guide the project and hire a qualified consultant to do the detailed research at local, state and national levels and to inventory previously collected artifacts attributed to the Battle. All of the documentation will be indexed, annotated and provided to the Historical Society. The consultant will prepare a final report that describes the methods undertaken, a summary history of the Battle, preliminary assessment of the battlefield boundaries, and professional recommendations for additional research or archaeological surveys.

The Historical Society will work with the consultant to share information with property owners about their land and its significant role in the history of the United States.

At least four public meetings will be scheduled to share progress and discoveries and there will be monthly research updates on the Historical Society’s website. In addition, the Ridgefield Historical Society and the State Historic Preservation Office will sponsor two planning charrettes about battlefield preservation with the goal of creating policies for areas under the highest risk of development.


Wilton disputes numbers in unemployment report

Last week, the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics released April unemployment data for the State and municipalities.  Wilton First Selectman Lynne Vanderslice says the published unemployment rates, of 7.9 percent for Connecticut and 5.2 percent for Wilton do not represent true unemployment.  She says that's because unemployed individuals not actively seeking employment were removed from the report.  In 2019, Wilton’s labor force averaged 8,400 with 8,200 employed.  The April numbers were a labor force of 7,400, with 7,000 employed.  About a thousand unemployed residents were dropped from the report.  If they had been included, Wilton’s April unemployment rate is 16.7-percent.


Newtown Police Department preparing to resume fingerprinting services

The Newtown Police Department is preparing to resume fingerprinting services.  In an effort to keep officers and the public safe during the COVID-19 outbreak, law enforcement departments across the State suspended the services.  Although the exact date is unknown, the Newtown Police Department is drafting policies and procedures for when fingerprinting services are authorized by the Governor to resume.  Procedures may involve, among other things: fingerprinting by appointment only, mandatory facemasks and other PPE, social distancing, and temperature screening. Once the Newtown Police Department is authorized to resume fingerprinting services, an updated message will be posted on their website.  The information will include information on how to make appointments, and necessary safety protocols that must be adhered to.


Dog license renewal statements mailed out in Bethel

Dog license renewal statements went out in the mail today.  Bethel Town Clerk Lisa Bergh says all dog licensing will be done remotely. Included in the mailing is a letter with detailed instructions, along with information about Transfer Station Permits.  A return envelope is also included for mailing to the Town Clerk's office.  Renewals can also be left in the Town Hall drop box located at the front entrance to the building.  The Governor has issued an Executive Order which allows for an additional 30 days before late fees are imposed. Instead of July 1st, the date before late fees will be August 1st.  If a dog’s rabies is expired, Bethel officials have highlighted that in the statement.  A copy of a valid rabies certificate can be sent with payment.  Currently held Transfer Station Permits with an expiration date of July 1st will not expire until January 1st.  A renewal process will be outlined at the end of the calendar year.


Newtown Legislative Council approves funding for emergency communications upgrade

The Newtown Legislative Council has signed off on funding for part of a public safety project.  During their meeting earlier this month, the Council was asked to approve $2.5 million in bonding for the emergency radio system upgrade for first responders.  Under the Governor's executive orders, the Legislative Council can vote on items, rather than holding a referendum. 

First Selectman Dan Rosenthal told the group that the balance of the funding for the project, $5 million, does not need to be voted on immediately, and can go to the voters on the November Presidential election ballot, or next April.  In making the case for initial passage, Rosenthal said he believed taxpayers will support the upgrades since the implications of not completing the project brings consequences that could negatively affect virtually any resident or visitor in need of emergency assistance. 

Until the new equipment is authorized, purchased, ordered, and installed, taxpayers would still have to pay for the dispatch center to be open and operating at its present Town Hall South location when the new police headquarters open.


Campfires, outdoor fireplaces, fire pit burning activities may resume in Easton

During the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Easton Fire Marshal’s office enacted a moratorium on all outside burning. This action was done in order to reduce the Fire Department’s responses during the pandemic.  Based the Phase I Opening of the State, campfires, outdoor fireplaces and fire pit burning activities may resume in Easton.  These activities are not regulated per se by the Easton Fire Marshal. Nuisance smoke will cause the fire department to shut down these recreational activities sa that is regulated by the State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.  Open Burning permits of Brush on Residential Property in Easton will be permitted on a phased-in basis.  Residents who already have a permit may follow the customary rules and start to burn brush. The conditions found on the burning permit must be strictly complied with or the permit will be revoked by the Fire Marshal.  Any applicant who has already applied for an Open Burning Permit and has not yet picked up the completed permit up from the fire department will be sent the completed permit in the US Mail by June 1st.


Connecticut transgender policy found to violate Title IX

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut policy that allows transgender athletes to compete in girls sports violates the civil rights of female athletes, the U.S. Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights has ruled.

The ruling, which was obtained Thursday by The Associated Press, comes in response to a complaint filed last year by several female track athletes, who argued that two transgender runners who were identified as male at birth had an unfair physical advantage.

The office said in a 45-page letter that it may seek to withhold federal funding over the policy, which allows transgender athletes to participate as the gender with which they identify. It said the policy is a violation of Title IX, the federal civil rights law that guarantees equal education opportunities for women, including in athletics.

It has “denied female student-athletes athletic benefits and opportunities, including advancing to the finals in events, higher level competitions, awards, medals, recognition, and the possibility of greater visibility to colleges and other benefits,” according to the letter, which is dated May 15.

The Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference, which oversees scholastic sports in the state, has said its policy is designed to comply with the state’s law barring schools from discriminating against transgender students. A call seeking comment was left Thursday with CIAC.

Attorneys for the Alliance Defending Freedom, who represent the girls who brought the complaint, said they would have a comment later on Thursday.

The Office for Civil Rights ruling names the CIAC and school districts the transgender runners and those filing the complaint competed — Glastonbury, Bloomfield, Hartford, Cromwell, Canton, and Danbury.

The office said it will “either initiate administrative proceedings to suspend, terminate, or refuse to grant or continue and defer financial assistance” to the CIAC and those districts or refer the cases to the U.S. Department of Justice.

In its letter, the Office for Civil Rights said it notified the CIAC and the school districts of its pending decision in February, but that subsequent negotiations failed to result in an agreement over the policy.

The dispute, which is already the subject of a federal lawsuit, centers on two transgender sprinters, Terry Miller and Andraya Yearwood, who have frequently outperformed their competitors, winning a combined 15 girls state indoor or outdoor championship races since 2017, according to the lawsuit.

Lawyers for the transgender athletes have argued that both are undergoing hormone treatments that have put them on an equal footing with the girls they are competing against.

One of the plaintiffs, Chelsea Mitchell, won two state indoor title races over Miller this year.

The plantiffs sought to block the participation of Miller and Yearwood, both seniors, from spring track meets, which were later canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. They were also seeking to erase all records set by the transgender athletes.

Connecticut is one of 18 states, along with Washington, D.C. that allows transgender high school athletes to compete without restrictions, according to Transathlete.com, which tracks state policies in high school sports across the country.

Several other states have polices barring the participation of transgender athletes and Idaho recently became the first state to pass a law banning transgender women from competing in women’s sports. The American Civil Liberties Union and Legal Voice filed a federal lawsuit contending that law violates the U.S. Constitution because it is discriminatory and an invasion of privacy.


Wilton making field available for senior photos

Wilton Parks and Recreation Director Steve Pierce is closely monitoring bookings for tennis courts, the Stadium track and fields.  Over the last 10 days, the track has been nearly fully booked, but plenty of availability has remained for the Stadium turf.   Wilton is making Lilly field available for senior class family photos on the “W”.  Opportunities will not only  be available during Phase 1, but also during Phase 2 to allow for families greater than 5 persons.  There are over 300 students in the Wilton High School graduation class.  Allowing for rain dates, photos will occur over a few weeks. 


Redding Transfer Station to reopen, with restrictions

Beginning Monday, the Redding Transfer Station will begin accepting all previously accepted materials.  Hours will be 7:30AM to 3PM Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Saturday.  Redding Transfer Station attendants will not be assisting residents and all activity will be self-service.  Cash will not be accepted, only checks.  Employees will be practicing social distancing and residents are also asked to follow similar protocols.


Local lawmaker among delegation to tour Foxwoods to assess reopening protocols

Among the state delegation to tour Foxwoods this week was Bethel State Representative Raghib Allie-Brennan, a member of the General Assembly’s Public Safety and Security Committee, which oversees Connecticut’s gambling programs.  Allie-Brennan says there are comprehensive safety measures that have been put in place to protect staff and guests ahead of the limited reopening on Monday.  Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun have furloughed roughly 10,000 workers due to the COVID-19 pandemic.  Allie-Brennan says helping Connecticut families get back to work is a high priority, but so is continuing to follow guidelines that have been issued by public health officials. He believes both can be done.


New Fairfield Zoning Commission approves new regulations on generators, mechanical equipment

Storm damage has become more frequent in recent years which has prompted more homeowners to install generators.  The New Fairfield Zoning Commission voted this week to approve a new section in town regulations to define mechanical equipment and rules for size and placement.  Mechanical equipment would be required to have a minimum setback of 10 feet from all property lines in both residential and nonresidential districts and be located behind the front building plane of a property.  Mechanical equipment over 500 square feet would require a licensed Connecticut surveyor to determine if a storm water management mitigation system is also needed. Zoning Enforcement Officer Evan White says Brookfield, Danbury, Ridgefield and Redding established mechanical equipment regulations after the 2018 macroburst.  The New Fairfield Zoning Commission is next scheduled to meet on Wednesday via Zoom.


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