Local News

'Rescue Mission' taking place Thursday to bring Uncle Sam back to Danbury

Crews from the Danbury Public Works Department will be headed to Lake George on Thursday for what Mayor Mark Boughton called a rescue mission to bring Uncle Sam back home.  He is also asking the Police Chief for a police escort when the fiberglass structure gets to the state line. 

The 38-foot tall Uncle Sam statue, which once greeted visitors of the Danbury Fair, will be transported to a hangar at Danbury Airport so a fiberglass restoration team can make it weatherproof. 

Boughton has yet to determine the location of where the largest Uncle Sam statue in the world will be displayed.  Ultimately, he wants it to be some place people entering Danbury can see, but as this is a digital age, nowhere dangerous for people who want to take selfies with the statue.  He is looking at places similar to where the Cross in Waterbury is located, which can be seen from I-84. 

All of the engineering is done for a pad it will stand on, and the current owner is donating wrought iron fencing.  Since it is so tall, the statue will likely require wires anchoring it to the ground.  Boughton has secured a donation from a local corporation and an in-kind donation from a local family-owned company to help with installation and lighting, because the statue will be lit up 24-7. 

Boughton's goal is to  have an unveiling at a big event celebrating the fair around 4th of July.


Funding approved for replacement fire boat, engine repairs in Brookfield

The Brookfield Boards of Selectmen and Finance have approved funding for a new fire boat.  Candlewood Fire Company Assistant Chief Jeff Dunkerton gave a presentation and answered questions on their apparatus needs - Estimated Life, Replacement Costs and Required Funding, for the purchase of a replacement fire boat.  The request is outside the normal budget cycle, as they need 5 to 6 months lead time to be equipped by Labor Day. 

The replacement fire boat will cost nearly $319,000.  $100,000 would be absorbed by Candlewood Fire Company, $190,000 would come from the fire apparatus reserve fund the town maintains and the balance will be transferred from another town account.  Candlewood Company received a $5,000 grant from FirstLight Power and is getting $15,480 from the sale of the old boat to offset their part of the contribution.

One of the issues they've been having, and came to a head in the spring, was cracks in the hull.  A welder tried to fix some of the cracks, but more kept appearing. 

The radio compartment gives the boat captain the capability to speak with the other surrounding towns and doctors in the ER.  With the size of the vessel, firefighters can work on two patients on backboards and can transport three on backboards.  The drop down bow gate comes to a 90-degree angle, allowing easy access to the water line to remove victims or for divers to go in and out of the water. 

An old problem with the jet drive system was that as the milfoil mats over, it's impossible to move the boat or to spray water.  The bottom of that system acts like a vacuum.

Dunkerton also discussed and answered questions on the repairs needed for Engine 21 noting the back end of the fire truck is rusted and rotting. If taken out of service, it would be of no value to the town when it came time to sell the apparatus to offset the cost of a new truck.  Dunkerton says Engine 21 could last another few years if repaired, and give them the retail value when it is sold in another few years. 

It will only take a couple of weeks to repair, but it can be done locally in Connecticut.   The $31,800 for emergency repairs to keep the truck in service would be paid for through a transfer of funding.


Danbury ordered to rehire police officer

Danbury has been ordered by a Superior Court judge to reinstate a police officer fired after being accused of using excessive force during an arrest.  The Newstimes reports that a judge sided with the state’s arbitration board ruling from the summer that Officer Daniel Sellner should not have been fired for taking  down a man while he was in handcuffs, sending the man to the emergency room in 2014.

The Danbury Police Department code of conduct required a  30-day suspension, but City officials say Sellner has a history of disciplinary issues.  Over his 20 year career, the published report cited roughing up a man in a jail cell, threatening a driver, misusing a taser on a driver and making a lewd comment to an elementary school teacher. 

Mayor Mark Boughton told the publication that the City is considering another appeal, noting that Danbury made a 5-figure payment to the injured man in a settlement.


Oxford receives state grant to preserve open space

The Town of Oxford is among the 14 recipients of state grant money to preserve open space.  The $4.8 million will go toward 1,100 acres of land for 15 projects.  The grant program requires a local match and that the open space land be protected by a conservation and public recreation easement, ensuring that the property is forever protected for public use and enjoyment. 

Oxford will use $1.1 million  to purchase the Schreiber Farm Open Space, totalling 132 acres. 

The property is located along Quaker Farms Road and is made up of extensive wetlands and gravel soils that has been used for agriculture purposes.  The Eight Mile Brook that is buffered by early successional habitats and supports listed species runs the length of this parcel feeding and draining two ponds. 

This property is also the location of an aquifer for the Town of Oxford.


DEEP to provide free training to recruit lifeguards for Squantz Pond

It may be December, but the state is already thinking about next Summer.  The Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection is recruiting lifeguards for the 8 State Park guarded beaches, including Squantz Pond. 

American Red Cross Lifeguarding classes are being offered at no cost to those interested in becoming a lifeguard December 27th through 30th.  The certification can only be used for employment as a lifeguard at Connecticut State Parks.  

DEEP Commissioner Susan Whalen says they hope the new approach will help recruit  full lifeguard squads at each park.  She says the classes are designed to train people interested in working as a lifeguard, but can't pay for the certification themselves.  Training will be held in Middletown. 

Hours of work are 10 am to 6 pm, five days per week, for a total of 40 hours. Weekends and holidays are mandatory. Minimum age by May 25th is 16 years for Lifeguards, 18 years for Lifeguard Supervisors.


New Fairfield to replace boat docks at Town Marina

New Fairfield First Selectmen Pat Del Monaco says Public Works is still working with the engineers on the boat docks and hope to have the report this week.  The Board of Selectmen also recently took up a proposal to use an existing budget surplus to replace the docks at the Town Marina.  A Memorandum of Understanding would be signed by the First Selectman, the Finance Board chairman, the head of Parks and Rec and the Finance Director.  Meanwhile, the Board previously approved boat dock slip fee and jet ski slip fee increases.  The Parks and Rec Commission recommended an increase of $250 and $125 respectively.  Any revenue over $150,000 will automatically be put into the replacement fund, a restricted lock box account. 


Danbury Library introduces 'Hush Pod'

If you've been to Danbury Library recently, you've seen an enclosed booth on the main floor.  It's a self-contained meeting pod, the only one in a Library in the United States.  The Hush Pod was designed by a Polish-based company for collaborative and individual focused work.  Danbury Library says the pod is available for small business meetings, interviews, and study sessions.  It can be reserved in advance or used on a walk-in basis.  Library Director Katie Pearson says they have become more of a community center and during focus groups, residents asked for more quiet study space, also conducive to small meetings. The study pod was sponsored by the Friends of the Danbury Library. 


New Milford Police make 2 DUI arrests within minutes

New Milford Police officers made two separate DUI arrests within 10 minutes of each other, less than a thousand feet apart.  Officers conducting traffic enforcement on Danbury Road Friday observed vehicle and traffic law violations.  The drivers were each pulled over and charged with operating under the influence.  28-year old Hannah Furniss of Brookfield was also charged for failure to have a rear marker plate illuminated.  39-year old Frederick Foster of Danbury was cited for speeding.  Each are due in court on Friday.


School start time changes delayed in Bethel

During their retreat last week, the Bethel Board of Education decided to delay any change in school start times until the 2020-2021 school year.  According to the weekly school newsletter, there was a change in phasing and the 3rd grade at Rockwell School will not move to Johnson School next year.  School officials were in consensus that it did not make sense to make the adjustment until all 3rd grade students from Rockwell and Berry moved to Johnson.


Bethel to apply for DEEP grant for water main replacement

Bethel officials are looking for help from the state on a water main replacement project.  The Board of Selectmen voted at their last meeting, on the recommendation of the Public Utilities Commission, to file an application for a Clean Water Fund grant.  Bethel is applying for $ 143,800.  The grant Fund is run through the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.


Carol signing, parade of lights tonight in New Milford

The New Milford Commission on the Arts is hosting a carol sing tonight with horse and wagon rides around the town green from 5 to 7pm.  Members of the high school music department will be among the performers from 7 to 8pm.  A Parade of Lights will also be held.  Vehicles, including fire trucks, will be festively decorated. Water Witch Hose firefighters this weekend wrapped up Santa Express visits with 180 stops.


Wilton Police donate to Domestic Violence Crisis Center

The Wilton Police Benevolent Association has donated gift cards totaling $950 to the Domestic Violence Crisis Center to support the Holiday Bazaar for their clients. The money was raised by Wilton police officers who donated money for the opportunity to grow facial hair in the month of December.  The DVCC is a domestic violence agency serving the cities and towns of Weston, Wilton, Stamford, Norwalk, Westport, New Canaan, and Darien.


Driver pinned beneath overturned fuel truck

A fuel truck overturned in Brookfield on Friday, trapping the driver beneath the vehicle.  Brookfield Police found the driver, 30-year old Aderito Dias of Seymour, out of the vehicle with his leg pinned underneath.  A nearby Public Works crew assisted with relieving the pressure from the patients leg using shovels and a pry bar.  Brookfield firefighters then used hydraulic tools to free the man.  He was transported to the hospital for treatment of injuries.  DEEP was notified for a small spill from the trucks fuel tank and to assess the trucks large storage tank.  The heating oil tank remained in tact.


Residents raise money for statue of Sandy Hook victim's dog

BETHLEHEM, Conn. (AP) - A group of residents in the Connecticut town where the principal of Sandy Hook Elementary School once worked is raising money for a statue to honor the victim of the massacre.

But the Bethlehem residents don't want a statue of Dawn Lafferty Hochsprung - they want to erect a statue of her dog, Bella, who played an important role in lives of the town's children.

Hochsprung was one of 26 students and educators killed in the Dec. 14, 2012 attack in Newtown.

She was previously a teacher and principal in Bethlehem. Bella was a certified therapy dog who would visit schools to sit with children and be their reading buddy.

Thomas Brayton tells the Republican American the goal is to raise $35,000 for a statue of Bella to be placed in the courtyard of Bethlehem Elementary.


Brookfield Fire Marshal offers Christmas fire safety reminders

Brookfield Volunteer Fire Company is offering some winter fire safety reminders.  One of every 3 home Christmas tree fires is caused by electrical problems.  Fire officials say a heat source too close to the tree causes one in every four Christmas tree fires.  The top three days for home candle fires are Christmas, New Year’s Day, and Christmas Eve and candles start two out of five home decoration structure fires.  Firefighters suggest using flame retardant decorations.


Candlewood Lake Authority names new Chief for Marine Patrol

The Candlewood Lake Authority has named a new chief of the Marine Patrol.  Ron Barnard, who was acting chief, was named to the role last week.  Barnard was the assistant chief.  He replaced Doug Vane, who retired for health reasons.  Members of the Patrol say Barnard's many years of law enforcement and his leadership skills have brought them together as a team and created an environment that has prepared them for the responsibility to protect the users of Candlewood Lake. 


New Milford firefighters ask for funding for repairs, replacement apparatus

At their next meeting, the New Milford Town Council will consider restoring $25,000 to the fire department's budget.  The chiefs were asked to bring the request back in the next budget cycle so that a precedent isn't set.  But Fire Officials say funding needs to be decided before the new year or the capital replacement plan will have to be revised.  The fire apparatus capital account was established in 1983 in response to a 1979 fire to make sure firefighters could respond to any blaze.  Water Witch Hose Company's Chief told the Town Council that without the $25,000, the departments will hit a deficit in two years, but with the funding, the deficit doesn’t hit for a decade.


Security features to be built into Sandy Hook memorial design

There will be some security features built into the planned Sandy Hook memorial.  SWA Group designer Ben Waldo presented information to Newtown officials earlier this fall about the selected plan.  He suggests an anti-climb and anti-cut fence surrounding most of the perimeter.  It can disappear into the woods or covered with vines where necessary.  He says this will help to prevent vandalism at the site. 

Closer to the main site gate, they are looking at an aesthetically pleasing vertical steel picket fence, which would still be secure.  While the site will not be open after dusk, they have proposed path lights, with fixtures selected for their simplicity that will blend into the landscape. 

The property abuts Treadwell Park and is not far from the Sandy Hook Volunteer Fire Department, just past Dickenson Drive. The 5-acre site includes some natural elements, including two ponds. 

The main feature of the design includes a pool of water, with a sycamore tree at its center.  The stone edge of the pool will include the names of the 26 children and educators killed on 12-14.  The firm incorporated the sacred soil from the demolished school and tributes left at the site into the design feature.  There are accessible ramps throughout the design, including one that crosses over a bridge to a divergence of paths which is characterized by a broad stone bench with a wooden top.  


Danbury negotiating to buy First Congregational Church

During his State of the City address recently, Mayor Mark Boughton announced a plan for the City to buy the First Congregational Church of Danbury in exchange for maintenance and preservation.  The church approached the City and Boughton called it one of the most recognizable buildings in Danbury. 

The church could rent it back for $1 per year, similar to other leases the city has with nonprofits and other organizations.  Boughton says the City could then use the facility as a performing arts hall 6 days a week.  He says they haven't settled completely on a price, but it will be minimal, likely for the legal fees and other things to get the transfer of the property and deed filed.  Later on, Boughton says all other uses can be determined. 

The parish has gotten smaller and wanted to save the more than 90-year-old building from being torn down as part of possible future development.  

A City Council committee is expected to be formed in the new year and parishioners also must vote on the proposal.


Ridgefield firefighter gets a promotion

A Ridgefield Firefighter has been promoted to  the position of Lieutenant. Patrick Holland started with Ridgefield in 1994 and is also a medic.  Ridgefield Professional Firefighters say his experience and knowledge will serve both the department and the citizens of Ridgefield well.


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