Local News

Ridgefield student charged for making threat on social media

A Ridgefield High School student has been charged with juvenile threatening and breach of peace.  Police said in a press release that they were alerted by several staff members to a threat made on social media March 13th by a student.  The Ridgefield Press reports that the juvenile was charged on Friday.  Capt. Shawn Platt says the juvenile was identified by school officials and, at no time during this incident were school students and staff in danger.  The student will be in court on the 25th.

Congressman continues 'Jim On Your Job' series in Ridgefield

4th District Congressman Jim Himes is spending the day in Ridgefield today. 

He is starting the morning off at The Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, which was founded in 1964 by an avid collector of and advocate for contemporary art.  From there he'll continue his series dubbed "Jim On Your Job."  Himes will join the staff of the Ridgefield Library to learn about library operations. As a part of the visit he will be checking out books, shadowing staff, and visiting the library’s weekly “Baby and Me” class. 

Later this afternoon Himes will be joined in Wilton by Senator Blumenthal.  The pair plan to meet with gun safety advocates to discuss the recent passage of the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2019.

Bethel Fire Marshal outlines Open Burn Permit regulations

With the Spring arriving, the Bethel Fire Marshal's Office is fielding questions, and some complaints, from residents about open burning.  Open Burn Permits are issued by the Fire Marshal's Office throughout the year.  Each permit, costing $2, is valid for four weeks. 

Applications will be put on for inspection of the burn pile the next day that the Fire Marshal is available. 

State regulations for open burning are only of twigs, branches and garden materials.  The permits are not for leaves, land clearing or construction debris.  The burn pile must be no larger than 3' wide by 3' high by 5' long. Burning in a barrel is permitted. The fire must be extinguished by 5pm.  A garden hose or barrel of water must be on hand when burning. 

Before burning, permit holders must call the Bethel Fire Department Communications Operator at 203-778-7415 to find out the Burning Index for the day.

United Way launches financial stability program for ALICE families

Connecticut United Ways have joined together to promote financial stability for working families statewide by launching ALICE Saves.  It's a new program designed to help Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed families develop a lifelong habit of saving and other positive financial behaviors. SaverLife is a financial counseling program operated by the New York-­-based Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners. 

It will be available to help families build emergency savings.  Savers earn $10 for every month that they save at least $20 and have the potential to earn up to $60 in rewards at the end of the six-­-month program.  The program is open to all Connecticut residents over age 18 until the end of 2019. 

United Ways found that 40% of Connecticut households cannot afford basic living expenses while 46% do not have enough savings to cover expenses for three months. While 37% of CT residents did not set aside any money for emergencies last year, research shows that families with a savings of just $250 are less likely to be evicted or miss a housing or utility payment.

Danbury students achieve success at STEM fair

Six students from the Westside Middle School Academy STEM program in Danbury took home prizes at the Connecticut Science & Engineering Fair. 

The event featuring more than 600 students from 120 middle and high schools across Connecticut and New York was held over the weekend at Quinnipiac University.  The 71st annual fair had students competing for more than $200,000 in prizes.  Danbury school officials say for the past four years, WSMSA, led by science teacher and theme coach Jon Neuhausel, has been one of the top three middle school in the state in terms of winning entries.

The following eighth-grade students at Westside were selected for excellence:
• Gabriella Brown, seventh grade, "Design, testing, and optimization of Kombucha scoby-based biofilms: 1st Place- Life Sciences 7th grade; Urban School Challenge Awards Middle School Finalist - Medallion; Peer-to-Peer Awards --- 7th Grade Life Sciences; Broadcom MASTERS National Competition Invitation to Apply

• Annabella Jardim, seventh grade, "Good Up High, Bad Near By”: Physical Sciences 7th Grade Medallion; Office of Naval Research- U.S. Navy / U.S. Marine Corps Award

• Sharva Karthikeyan, eighth grade, "Impact of Microwave-irradiated Plastic on Microbiological Health Indices": Urban School Challenge Awards Middle School Finalist - Medallion

• Srishti Ramakrishnan, eighth grade, "The Study of Effectiveness of Different Separation Methods in Removing Suspended Microplastics from Water": Finalist - Physical Sciences 8th Grade - CSF Medallion; Petit Family Foundation Women in Science & Engineering Awards --- 1st Place- Middle School; Urban School Challenge Awards- 1st Place Middle School; Environmental Sciences Awards -- 3rd Place; Urban School Challenge 1st Place Middle School; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Award; Talcott Mountain Science Center & Academy --- Founder’s Award; Air and Waste Management Association, Connecticut Chapter Award; GENIUS Olympiad Competition (Oswego, NY) for Highest Placing USC 8th grade Project

• Maria Eduarda Sousa Lopes, seventh grade, "Molecular Health Indices of the Kalmia latifolia": 4th Place- Life Sciences 7th grade; Urban School Challenge Middle School Finalist - Medallion; Biotechnology Awards Finalist; Talcott Mountain Science Center & Academy --- Founder’s Award; Alumni Botany Award; Broadcom MASTERS National Competition Invitation to Apply

• Chase Tomaino, seventh grade, "DIY WiFi Booster": 3rd Place- Physical Sciences 7th Grade; Urban School Challenge --- 3rd Place Middle School; U.S. Air Force Award; Broadcom MASTERS National Competition Invitation to Apply

Candlewood Lake Authority concerned with updated draft Nuisance Plant Monitoring report

The Candlewood Lake Authority is concerned about the second draft of the Nuisance Plant Monitoring report for 2018 from FirstLight Power Resources.  In a letter to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, CLA Executive Director Mark Howarth says while certain changes are positive, others have not sufficiently addressed their initial concerns.  He also says they've raised new questions. 

In one instance, Howarth says there is missing data from Squantz Pond and Lake Zoar that should be included in the final draft. 

The report says the summers of 2007 and 2013 were the only two with algae blooms.  The CLA questioned what the threshold is for an “algae bloom” because other years have had both large and localized blooms in Candlewood Lake.  They cited the example of one at Sherman Town Park in 2017. 

Howarth says the entire section on the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station Survey Methods misrepresents a lot of the information and methodology of past CAES surveys, and focuses almost exclusively on surveys conducted before 2014, before the sonar system was added. He believes that manipulates the meaningfulness and message of any comparison to past surveys.

Sen. Blumenthal proposes tax credit for land donations along Appalachian Trail

Senator Richard Blumenthal has introduced the Complete America’s Great Trails Act to help expand and preserve National Scenic Trails.  The Appalachian Trail extends 52 miles across the state from Salisbury in the north to Sherman in the south. 

The legislation would give tax credits to landowners who voluntarily make land contributions towards the completion of America’s national trail system.  Connecticut Forest and Park Association Executive Director Eric Hammerling says the tax credit provides the extra incentive necessary for private landowners to protect the New England National Scenic Trail corridor.  He noted that about 40-percent of the corridor goes through unprotected properties. 

Administered by the National Park Service or the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, National Scenic Trails span 18,249 miles across 30 states and the District of Columbia and host millions of visitors each year.

Since 1968, the total number of trails has grown from only the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails to 11 culturally significant national trails.

Danbury launches facade improvement grant program for downtown area

A Façade Improvement Grant Program has been launched in Danbury’s Downtown Revitalization Zone.  The grants are aimed at incentivizing private development in the city center area. The maximum amount of any grant is $10,000, with a maximum of $50,000 per property, or 50% of the total façade improvement costs, whichever is less. The reimbursement grants are being offered on a first-come basis.  The Downtown Revitalization Zone includes Main Street from Elmwood Place to Franklin Street, as well as the areas of Ives Street and Lee Hartell Drive. Full eligibility requirements for property owners, tenants and prospective purchasers are included in Program Guidelines, available on the City's website.  Applications must be completed and returned to the Permit Center in City Hall.


Regional planning agency seeks to increase bike trails

The Western Connecticut Council of Governments is developing a Regional Bicycle Plan for a connected bicycle network in the region.  The plan will build on recommendations from existing studies in the region, and will support the North/South and the East/West bicycle connectivity corridors that will become the "backbone" of the network.  Statistics from the Connecticut Department of Transportation’s 2016 Statewide Transportation Study showed that 7.3% of trips taken in Western Connecticut are by bike or on foot.  WestCOG officials say with streets that are safer for bicyclists, and an improved trail system, bicycling will become a more viable means of transportation in the region. The group has a map showing bicycle routes that are under construction, planned, or completed in the region.

A bill allowing bear hunting in Connecticut has been scaled back greatly, focusing only on helping farmers

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) A contentious proposal to allow bear hunting in Connecticut has been scaled back, now focusing only on farmers whose livestock, poultry and bees are destroyed by the animals.

The General Assembly's Environment Committee voted Monday to amend a bill that would have authorized regulated bear hunting in Litchfield County.

The new version of the bill, which awaits further action by the Senate, updates current law allowing the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Commissioner to grant permits for the taking of certain nuisance wildlife that have destroyed crops.

Under the newly revamped bill, damage to livestock, poultry and bees would be added.

The Connecticut Farm Bureau says bears are ``one of those animals that are causing havoc on farms.''

The committee also passed legislation encouraging more non-lethal bear management techniques.

Local lawmaker proposes bill on diaper changing table equity

A local lawmaker has introduced a bill to make access to diaper changing tables more equitable.  In order to improve the health and safety of children, all new and substantially renovated buildings with public restrooms would be required to provide at least one diaper changing table to women and men per floor. 

Bethel Senator Will Haskell says in the 21st century, parenting is finally becoming more equitable with mothers and fathers sharing responsibilities.  He says if changing tables are available, it's only in women's restrooms.  Haskell says that makes it inconvenient for fathers alone or same-sex male couples to provide for the health and safety of their child.  Men are forced to change their child on unsanitary counters or delay changing the diaper, which can lead to rashes and infections for the child. 

States like California, New York, Oklahoma and Washington have similar laws on the books.  Federal action was taken in 2016 when the Bathrooms Accessible in Every Situation, or BABIES Act, was signed into law.  It required diaper changing tables in all public federal building bathrooms, including courthouses and post offices.

Police searching for owner of wedding ring left in pet store

BROOKFIELD, Conn. (AP) Police are asking the owner of a wedding ring found at a Connecticut pet supply store to come forward to avoid being put ``in the dog house.''

Brookfield Police posted on Facebook on Sunday that an honest citizen turned in the wedding ring after finding it at the Petco in town.

They didn't post a photo. Authorities say the owner will need to provide a description of the ring and other details to claim it.

One person responded to the post, saying it may belong to an 87-year-old man who received it from his grandfather.

Police say they will provide an update if the ring's owner is found.

Municipal regionalization proposal up for a hearing Wednesday

There's another hearing this week on regionalization proposals in Hartford.  The Governor has presented a bill  dealing generally with regionalization and shared services for local governments.  But Wilton Representative Gail Lavielle says sections of the bill are the same as his proposal for school consolidation.  The public hearing this time though is before the Planning and Development Committee.  Lavielle says this is another opportunity for people who have submitted testimony to the Education Committee to speak out about regionalization bills.  Wednesday's hearing is at 11am.

Ridgefield Commission for Accessibility looking for new members

The Ridgefield Commission for Accessibility is looking for new members.  The group provides recommendations to the Selectmen and other Ridgefield officials on matters pertaining to the rights and needs of disabled citizens and reasonable accommodations to their special needs.  Ideal candidates would pro-actively advocate further improvements in current public facilities and accommodations which, although not required by statute in some cases, would provide disabled citizens with the means for more independent and safe access throughout Ridgefield.  Meetings are held every second Monday of the month at 5pm in the Town Hall Large Conf Room.  Interested candidates are asked to contact the First Selectman's office via email.

Wilton Police achieve Tier 1 accreditation status

The Connecticut Police Officer Standards and Training Council recently approved the Wilton Police Department’s Tier-1 Accreditation status.  The State Accreditation program is designed to help law enforcement agencies to operate efficiently and uniformly to reduce exposure to civil liability.  Wilton's status shows the department demonstrated excellence in management and service delivery by complying with 127 standards. The Wilton Police Department is the 37th police agency in the State to hold an active Accreditation status.  CT POST highlighted work to solidify interagency cooperation, formalizing essential management procedures and strengthening crime prevention and control capabilities among others.

Brookfield VFW to rename hall in honor of Navy SEAL killed in 2007

The Brookfield Veterans of Foreign Wars is looking to name Post 10201's new location after a Brookfield native who was killed while on duty in Iraq.  30-year old Jason Lewis, a Navy SEAL, was killed in July 2007 by an improvised explosive device during a combat mission in Baghdad.  The VFW space in the Sokol Lodge’s building on Candlewood Lake Road will be dedicated in Lewis' name during a ceremony to be held this Summer.  The Brookfield VFW started a GoFundMe page to raise $5,000 for a plaque/memorial, shadow box, and the dedication ceremony.

Newtown to enter into dispute resolution with architect, construction firm for Community Center of errors

Newtown will enter into “dispute resolution” with the Community Center architect and construction firms QA+M Architecture and Newtown-based Caldwell & Walsh Building Construction. 

There are some delays and possible cost overruns on the project after a number of errors.  The Newtown Bee reports that steel structural elements for the canopy over the senior center entranceway were not included in any original plans. Steel supports for movable partition walls were also not included in original plans. The rooms are already completed and they have to be installed in the ceilings.  There's also missing steel work and supports integral to the community center’s front and rear entrance ways. 

If mediation is not successful, then the parties generally can move to arbitration.

The Newtown Public Building and Sites Committee can only sign off on bills for projects that do not put the work over the amount approved by voters.  When lanes were added to the lap pool and the multipurpose room expanded, some value engineering had to be done.  Officials are looking at ways to either value-engineer the remaining work, or figure out other ways to pay the bills.

First Selectman Dan Rosenthal says they've identified a number of items that could be reclassified to free up some project budget.  There are other things the town could take on, like paving.  If Public Works crews do the paving, he acknowledged that it's still a cost taxpayers have to take on.  He says it's not just the salary of town employees doing the work, but not having them available to work on something else and the contribution of materials.  Top soil work will also be done in house. 

The overall goal is to make sure the project is fully enclosed and has fully operational heating and ventilation systems.  He says items like furniture, kitchen equipment and a security package are not critical to completion of the building and could be pushed off.  Rosenthal says other funding sources can be identified for those items.  But he believes the security package change order is a priority. It will allow for cameras, keyfab access, though there will be a manual key as well, and will allow the building to be locked remotely. 

Rosenthal says while the patio and fire pit would maximize the rental potential, there are higher priorities, integral to the building. 

Public hearing today on state proposal in response to Cricket Valley concerns

A public hearing is being held today at the state capitol on a bill requiring an air quality study in towns that may be impacted when the Cricket Valley Energy Center comes on line.  Kent Representative Maria Horn and Danbury Senator Julie Kushner co-sponsored the measure.  The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection would have to provide technical assistance and support to any municipality that purchases, leases or uses air monitoring equipment in order to establish an air quality baseline, and then determining any effect by the Dover Plains plant.  DEEP could provide information on best practices for creating the baseline, guidance on placement of the monitors, and information on best practices to assure the accuracy of the monitors.  The  Environment Committee hearing on the bill is scheduled for 11am.

Danbury cocaine dealer pleads guilty to federal gun charge

A Danbury man has pleaded guilty to possession of a firearm during a drug trafficking crime.  The arrest stemmed from a drug sale in Stamford in September.  The U.S. Attorney's Office says Police searched a backpack belonging to 28-year old Fernando Rodriguez and found 58 grams of cocaine and 116 grams of marijuana.  A search of a secret storage compartment in his car turned up  an additional 100 grams of cocaine, a 9mm handgun, and a loaded 9mm magazine.  Rodriguez has been detained since his federal arrest on January 10th and he is set to be sentenced June 7th.  Rodriguez faces a mandatory minimum term of five years in prison and a maximum term of life.


Possibly suicidal person prompted road closures in Danbury Friday around Park Ave School

Danbury Police have released details about an incident Friday that led to a precautionary shelter in place order at Park Avenue School.  Police received a call about a possibly suicidal person at a home on Park Avenue near West Wooster Street. 

The person reportedly had a rifle and threatened to shoot themselves. Officers and crisis negotiators were not able to make immediate contact with the person.  SWAT teams secured the area.  Residents from surrounding houses were evacuated for their safety as tactical officers entered the home and found the person uninjured.

The party was transported to the hospital for evaluation. 

Danbury Police thanked the HART Transit Authority for providing a bus for the evacuated residents to wait in until they could return home, and the Fire Police from Danbury Volunteer Fire Companies Engine 12 and Engine 8, who assisted with traffic control during the road closures.

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