Local News

Danbury declares Level 3 Snow Emergency

A level 3 snow emergency will in effect for the City of Danbury as of 8pm.  This means that parking is prohibited on city streets. To avoid having vehicles ticketed and towed, Mayor Dean Esposito asked residents to take immediate action and move to off-street parking by 10pm. The Patriot Parking Garage will be open free of charge starting at 7:30pm to accommodate those who need space to comply with this weather emergency.  Level 3 also means that Travel on city streets is restricted to emergency vehicles, public works, four-wheel drive, and emergency personnel only.  This storm will bring with it heavy winds resulting in potential power outages and downed trees. Residents are asked to secure all outdoor items or bring them inside.


COVID testing Saturday cancelled in several locations

Tomorrow's COVID 19 testing clinic in New Milford has been canceled due to the winter  storm.  Residents with appointments are asked to bring confirmed registration to the testing day next week.  The Kent COVID-19 Test Site has also suspended operations for tomorrow due to weather for the safety of both the site team personnel and the public.  The Carmel Testing Site will be closed all day on Saturday.


DPH releases Greater Danbury area COVID-19 data

According to the latest COVID-19 data from the state Department of Public Health, Danbury reported 1,442 cases in the last two weeks.  Bethel has had 293 cases, there were 274 COVID cases in Brookfield, and New Fairfield reported 181.  There were 454 COVID cases in New Milford, 367 in Newtown, Redding reported 74 cases in the last two weeks while Ridgefield had 279. 

The state department of Public Health is reporting COVID-19 case rates for the Greater Danbury area were cut in half for the week ending January 22nd.  Case rates range from 58 to 121 per 100-thousnd population, down from a range of 104 to 206 last week. The lowest case rate is in Redding and the highest is in Danbury, based on population.    

The rates are:

Redding 58

Ridgefield 79.8

New Fairfield 93.2

Newtown 94

Bethel 105.7

Brookfield 115.3

New Milford 121

Danbury 121.6

 

COVID-19 infection rates for the Greater Danbury area range from 13 to 27 percent, down from a range of 20 to 35 percent last week.  The lowest test positivity is in Redding and the highest is in Danbury.  At home COVID-19 test results are not reported to the state. 

The rates are:

Redding 13.4 percent

Ridgefield 14.8 percent

Newtown 18.1 percent

New Milford 20.3 percent 

Bethel 20.5 percent

Brookfield 22.5 percent 

New Fairfield 24.7 percent 

Danbury 27.1 percent 


Redding to make masks available to residents

N95 masks are available at various locations around Redding such as Town Hall, Mark Twain Library, Transfer Station, Park & Rec, Heritage Center, and houses of worship.  For residents looking to pick up masks from town hall, they are asked to call 203-938-2559 from the front door.  Redding Health Officer Doug Hartline says these high quality masks are designed to form a seal around an adult's nose and mouth, but are not designed for people with facial hair because a proper fit cannot be achieved to provide protection.


Danbury won't need to rent former Brookfield school next academic year

Danbury does not plan to rent a former Brookfield catholic school next academic year.  Superintendent Kevin Walston told the Board of Ed this week that the Ellsworth Avenue Elementary School annex is expected to open on time.  The Danbury Primary Center at the former St. Joseph Catholic Academy will close.  It was used this year for 240 students in 11 classes due to pandemic-related distancing guidelines.  If Danbury were to run the program there for additional years, more investments would be needed such as an additional boiler and more air conditioning.


New Fairfield Police remind parents of school drop-off procedures

The New Fairfield Resident Trooper's Office has seen some issues with school drop off.  Parents who are driving their kids to the middle and high school especially are being reminded that the school buses are the priority.  Parents should enter the campus and move into the left lane.  Only buses and students that are parking in the lower lots, may use the right lane.  New Fairfield Troopers also asked that parents not block buses as they enter the middle school driveway for drop off or pick up.


Bethel schools to hold budget workshops

The Bethel School District is hosting budget workshops on Tuesdays and Thursdays through February 8th.  Superintendent Christine Carver is requesting a 3.95 percent spending increase, or an additional $1.9 million, for coming academic year.  She says more funding is needed due to increasing enrollment and to address pandemic-related issues.  Among the other factors contributing to the increase are the cost of diesel fuel and supplies for the school lunch program. A special education teacher at Berry Elementary School, but Carver says caseloads remain a challenge at Rockwell Elementary and an  additional special education teacher is needed there.


Danbury Zoners clear path for Danbury Career Academy with site plan revision approval

Site plan changes have been approved for a development in Danbury, clearing a hurdle for creation of the Danbury Career Academy.  The Danbury Zoning Commission signed off on revisions to The Summit's application to reduce the number of apartments in the former Matrix Center to a minimum of 180.  A City-run public school, serving 1,400 middle and high school students, could be located in three of the pods. 

The Zoners did include a provision that if plans for the school fall through. SC Ridge can revert back to the previously approved 404 residential units. 

The approval followed a site visit by some members of the Commission.  The pods on the right side of the building are to be office space and the pods on the left side are where the residential units and the Career Academy will be located. All visitors to the site will enter through the north side of the building and exit through the south side.

The school area will not have access to the residential unit amenities including a health club, a dry cleaner, a barber, a beauty salon, a yoga studio, and kitchen facilities operated by the Market Place restaurant.  Market Place will be opening a restaurant and coffee bar in an area by the main lobby.  A convenience store will also be in that area.  Access to the residential units will be by card-access only.  

Other plans for the site include a Danbury Police substation and space dedicated to emergency response services.  Developers hope to have an ambulance located on the premises during the daytime hours.

The Nuvance offices at the site are already in use.  There's an existing ballroom and executive boardrooms at the Matrix Center.  In addition to existing walking paths, plans call for a putting area for golfers, and bocce courts. 


Danbury COVID-19 cases reported to state on the decline

Danbury has reported 1,442 COVID-19 cases to the state Department of Public Health in the last two weeks reported.  The case rate as of January 22nd is 121.6 down from 206.6 per 100,000  population last week.  Danbury has a test positivity rate of 27 percent, down from 34.9 percent last week.  All but one of Connecticut's municipalities remain in the red zone alert level for COVID-19 community spread.  Just Canaan again is not showing 15 or more cases per 100,000 population over the last two weeks.  That town is in the grey with fewer than 5 cases.  


Mahopac man sentenced for drug sale, possession of weapon

A Mahopac man has been sentenced to 7 years in prison after pleading guilty to Criminal Sale of a Controlled Substance and Criminal Possession of a Firearm.  27-year-old Kyle Novotny also pleaded guilty to criminal possession of a weapon and a controlled substance.  All four are felonies. 

District Attorney Robert Tendy says Novotny drove to a location in Somers in August 2020 and sold heroin to a person working for the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office Narcotics Enforcement Unit.  He was taken into custody at his home that November.  While there, Deputies recovered an unregistered and loaded Glock 44 handgun. 

Novotny pleaded guilty last month and was sentenced Wednesday.  


Bethel residents approve funding to expand Clarke Business Park

Bethel residents have signed off on funding to expand Clarke Business Park.  During a special town meeting Tuesday, residents approved appropriating up to $872,633 from the General Fund for the balance of funding for the construction project.   This money would supplement a state Department of Economic and Community Development grant of $635,017.  Plans call for adding four commercial lots, totaling 13.2 acres, along with water and sewer.  The project is a long time coming.  Bethel has tried for decades to expand, but one big hurdle was a lack of water for business needs and fire suppression.  When the Eureka Lake water storage tank project was completed in 2016, Bethel sought state funding, which was approved last year.


New Fairfield reminding residents of street parking ban in winter

With a possible big snow storm coming this weekend, the New Fairfield Resident Trooper's Office is offering a reminder to residents.  There is a town ordinance on winter street parking because some of the roads are very narrow.  There is no parking allowed on town roads while New Fairfield plows are out removing snow, sanding or responding to other weather  related emergencies to help the town plows and sanders do their job.  Violations will result in a 25 dollar fine and will be double if not paid within 15 days.  Vehicles may also be towed at the owner's expense.


Brookfield Fire & EMS ready for winter storm

Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company is tracking the potential substantial snow storm.  Fire Chief Ellis and EMS Deputy Chief Woodtke participated on a Zoom call with Candlewood Company, Brookfield Police, Public Works, Parks & Recreation and First Selectman Tara Carr to coordinate the preparation.  Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company will be increasing EMS staffing to cover 2 ambulances on the over night tonight increasing to 3 ambulances and a paramedic fly car on Saturday morning.  Pocono Road Headquarters will be staffed by volunteer firefighters and EMT’s starting tonight.  An ATV and other vehicles will be readied to respond to calls.   Residents are reminded to not park on the street during a snow storm as it hampers snow removal and could delay emergency responses. 


Local lawmaker to host virtual Red Cross Emergency Preparedness training class

Members of the Newtown state legislative delegation are co-hosting a virtual Red Cross Emergency Preparedness training class on Tuesday.  State Representatives Mitch Bolinsky and Tony Scott, along with the American Red Cross, will detail easy-to-do steps in advance of an emergency to ensure residents can withstand a crisis safely with minimal discomfort.  The lawmakers say Newtown has had its share of natural disasters in recent years, including Tropical Storm Irene, the 2018 tornado-like windstorm that cut a path of destruction along the north side of town and Tropical Storm Isaias.  In each case, thousands were left without power and individual and town losses were in the millions of dollars.  Tuesday's training will be at 6:30pm via Zoom.  The 'Be Red Cross Ready' training is a national, standardized preparedness education program for adults taught by a certified Red Cross presenter. The curriculum is designed to help people understand, prepare for, and respond appropriately to year-round disasters like home fires and local hazards like hurricanes.


WCSU to administer rapid COVID-19 tests this week after scheduling issue with lab

Quest Diagnostics, the company which will support West Conn with PCR COVID-19 testing, was unable to go to campus yesterday afternoon as planned.  All members of the West Conn community who are required to test were asked to visit the Midtown Student Center’s Colonial Corner today or tomorrow between 1pm and 3pm for a rapid antigen test. 

Students and staff who have been granted vaccine exemptions are required to test each week, and submit those results to the university. 

During the semester, residential students in apartment-style halls who test positive or are symptomatic will isolate in their rooms with their roommates. Students living in Litchfield or Newbury Halls will isolate in Fairfield Hall.  Any student able to return home to recover is encouraged to follow that course.  Indoor social distancing and masks will be required for the foreseeable future and no spectators will be allowed at WCSU athletic events.


Troopers investigate car break-in, larceny in New Fairfield

The New Fairfield Resident Trooper's Office is investigating a vehicle break in that happened  in the area of Biscotti's Ristorante.  The larceny incident occurred on the 12th, sometime in the afternoon hours.  Cash and credit cards were removed from the vehicle by the suspect. The credit cards were used by the suspect at several locations throughout Danbury. The male suspect was seen getting into dark gray Nissan Rogue or Murano with an unknown license plate. Anyone with information is asked to contact New Fairfield Troopers.


Southbury Police investigating larceny at beauty store

Southbury Police are investigating a larceny at Ulta Beauty in the Southbury Plaza.  A man and woman entered the store shortly before 5:30pm last Sunday and put  bottled fragrance items in their pockets, and left without paying.  The male suspect is described as having  dark hair and wearing a black jacket and black pants.  The only description of the female suspect was that she was wearing a blue jacket and black pants. Anyone with information is asked to contact the Southbury Police.


Bethel School District providing budget data for upcoming academic year

The Bethel Public Schools district is keeping their Financial Dashboard up to date with all 2022-2023 budget information.  This includes presentations, links to digital Board of Education meetings and other relevant documentation.  There's also a separate PowerPoint detailing the use of Federal grant monies to support keeping schools open and supporting student needs during the ongoing pandemic.  The Dashboard also has historical information and all relevant financial information for the district.


Weekend COVID-19 vaccine clinic in Redding cancelled

Due to the impending weather,  the COVID-19 vaccine clinic scheduled for this Saturday in Redding has been cancelled.   There are some other vaccine clinics planned in the region for this weekend.  Griffin Health has not yet said if the mobile vans will be at those locations.  They do say that the walk up clinics are weather dependent.  One of their weekend clinics is held at Danbury High School every Saturday and Sunday from 10am to 4pm.


Senators say they were denied full access to federal prison

Two U.S. senators said Wednesday that they were denied access to parts of a federal prison in Connecticut while trying to examine conditions there in response to correctional officers’ complaints about a staffing shortage and lack of coronavirus precautions.

Concerns about the spread of COVID-19 itself were behind the denial, the federal Bureau of Prisons said.

Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, both Connecticut Democrats, visited the Danbury Federal Correctional Institution with labor union leaders and two state lawmakers. Murphy said they were barred from seeing the main women’s facility but were able to see a men’s unit after a “fight” to gain access.

“There was clearly a decision made to try to stop both of us from seeing some of the conditions at this prison,” Murphy said during a news conference after the visit.

“This facility, even during COVID, should be open for inspection by policymakers,” he said. “We need to see it during good times, but we also need to see it during bad times. And if the Bureau of Prisons has decided that U.S. lawmakers are not going to be able to see what is really happening inside these prisons during a crisis, that’s a problem.”

Blumenthal said prison officials rejected, at the last moment Wednesday morning, an itinerary given to the senators ahead of the visit.

“The officials here said we’d love to have you come back when COVID is over,” Blumenthal said. “We came here to see conditions when COVID is the problem. That was the whole point.”

The Bureau of Prisons said in a statement that Murphy and Blumenthal were given a tour of the prison “based on current COVID-19 safety protocols.”

“For health and safety reasons, portions of the tour were adjusted by the Warden to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 following an increase in COVID-19 cases,” the statement said.

The bureau did not immediately respond to other questions about correctional officers’ concerns about staffing and coronavirus protocols. A bureau spokesperson said responses were being prepared.

The senators basically were kept away from any areas where inmates were, said Shaun Boylan, a Danbury prison staffer and executive vice president of the local prison staff union, Local 1661 of the American Federation of Government Employees. He said prison officials had no objections to the original tour itinerary until Wednesday morning.

The tour was changed to include mostly empty areas, including a dining room for men and secure areas just outside the housing units, Boylan said.

The Danbury prison complex houses 1,078 inmates, according to the bureau. Murphy and the local correctional officers’ union say about 40% of the inmates are in isolation or quarantine because of the coronavirus.

The virus has been spreading widely again in federal prisons across the country. The Bureau of Prisons says it oversees more than 145,000 inmates in institutions and community-based facilities.

Of the total inmates, 8,074 currently are currently infected with the coronavirus and more than 1,640 of the 36,000 staff members are infected, according to bureau data.

Boylan said a staffing shortage in Danbury is requiring many correctional officers to work double shifts. Officers are exhausted, morale is low and conditions are dangerous, he said.

Staffing problems also are resulting in officers working in several units, which may be helping to spread the virus, Boylan said. And it is taking too long — two days — to receive virus testing results for staff, he said.

“We don’t have the staff to stop the spread of coronavirus here because they’re using the shortened numbers of staff, and they’re going all over the place,” Boylan said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Boylan said there are just over 80 correctional officers at Danbury, compared with 115 two years ago and 72 officers short of meeting the Bureau of Prisons’ own staffing guidelines. While the bureau’s goal is one officer per prison unit, the Danbury staff to unit ratio is 1 to 3, he said. Thirteen officers are out of work because of the virus, he said.

The bureau has said Danbury is more than 90% staffed, but the union doesn’t agree with that number.

Blumenthal said he will be asking the Senate Judiciary Committee to investigate staffing at Danbury and other federal prisons.

Murphy, Blumenthal and U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes, also a Connecticut Democrat, earlier this month called for a federal investigation of the Danbury prison complex after saying they received reports of officials not following coronavirus protocols.

Bureau of Prisons officials have previously said they follow the COVID-19 guidelines of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


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